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The Best (or Worst?) Examples of Photographic Manipulation

Friday, March 18, 2011 - 10:36 AM

On today's Please Explain, Leonard will be talking to David Pogue and Katrin Eismann about digital photography. One of the issues we'll be exploring is whether digital imagery is more prone to alteration—and if this manipulability means that we have come to distrust digital photographs more than film photographs.

Below, we've created a slide show of some of our favorite faked images throughout history—both film and digital. Let us know in the comments of some other egregious—or subtle—examples of photographic fakery - and if you think digital is less trustworthy than film.

In case you're curious, the Museum of Hoaxes has a great page devoted to photo hoaxes from the 1850s to the 1950s.

One of our favorites we couldn't post an image of: In 2008, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard released a picture to their news arm. Seraph News, claiming to show a missile test of four missiles. Only problem? As the New York Times wrote, there was one too many: "the second missile from the right appears to be the sum of two other missiles in the image." Click here to see the photo.

This 1839 photograph by Hippolyte Bayard, a Frenchman, is claimed to be the earliest instance of photographic fakery. Frustrated by his lack of recognition, he took a photo of himself posed as a corpse and wrote on the back of the photo: "The Government, which has supported A Daguerre more than is necessary, declared itself unable to do anything for M. Bayard, and the unhappy man threw himself into the water in despair."

Oscar Rejlander/Museum of Hoaxes

This 1857 picture by Oscar Rejlander claims to show a street urchin tossing chestnuts. The problem? According to Paul Martin Lester, stopping a moving object in mid-air was a technical feat impossible with the slow film and lenses in use at that time.

Alexander Gardner/Museum of Hoaxes

...including this rocky outcropping. This photo, known as "Home of the Rebel Sharpshooter", almost definitely does not feature a sharpshooter, as the gun next to him his not a sharpshooter's rifle.

Alexander Gardner/Museum of Hoaxes

Alexander Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War is perhaps the most famous collection of Civil War photography. This photo claims to show the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg, but in 1961, Frederic Ray, art director of the Civil War Times, noticed that this body appeared more than once in the collection...(see next image)

In 2009, the New York Times commissioned the photographer Edgar Martins to travel around Detroit and take pictures for a slide show called "Ruins of the Second Gilded Age." Some sharp-eyed readers on Metafilter spotted the fact that the images had been altered, and the Times was forced to take down the slide show and post an apology.

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