Week 3 Digital Media Prompt Due Tuesday 5pm

Please read the linked article and respond to the following:

What are the implications (if any) of digitized story-telling in terms of representation and authenticity?

Review the comments left by other readers. Select and share a comment that helps articulate your reaction to this piece.


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29 Responses to Week 3 Digital Media Prompt Due Tuesday 5pm

  1. joezim1994 says:

    I feel like there are definitely times when editing a photograph can be damaging to its meaning, but this is not one of those times. I suppose that any degree of photoshopping would in effect nullify what the last several authors have said about photography capturing a real moment in time, but still I think at least this picture represents a different sense of authenticity. Combining two photographs may be a cardinal sin to some, but I think that this instance at least preserves the idea and intention of the photograph without compromising its veracity. One commenter, by the name of YourSensei, said something that I can agree with:

    “This is what you must know:
    Technology does as every advancement does – offer a use for good or bad. Both are assured.
    It is so.”

    This comment stuck out not mostly because of its somewhat bizarre adage-like composition in a sea of remarkably sexist comments, but I also think that there is some truth to this. I think that the ability to edit photos so easily can be used maliciously, but many times—such as in this instance—the technology used does not take away from what was represented and if fact can help to tell a more complete story.

  2. Elana says:

    Although, digitally edited photos do not always depict truth, in this case I think it did. The point of the photo wasn’t that all the congresswomen gathered together, rather it was that there were 61 women that were Democrats serving in Congress. Whether the 4 photo-shopped women were actually there or not when the photo was taken is irrelevant. The point is that they are in Congress. Had the focus of the photo been the gathering of congresswomen for some sort of monumental event than the photo-shopped women would have been a bigger deal because they were not at the event.

    Comment: “This is another example of liberal “good intentions” rather than truth or fact or historical record.”


    I agree with this comment. The intentions of the photoshop were completely harmless and had nothing to do with altering the truth. These women are Democrats in Congress whether they were physically there when the photo was taken or not.

    • dauneobrien3 says:

      I guess I am struggling with the decision to gather for a photograph when there are a million other ways to highlight the fact that they “are congresswomen.” Why THAT medium? A medium that demands a particular space, place, time….

  3. knkern94 says:

    Photoshopping can be very misleading and can be a source of conflict in documenting the truth, but Pelosi had no reason to be scrutinized for it in this case. The essence of the photo was not to say that all 61 women group hugged together on the Capitol steps. The point was to show that there ARE 61 congresswomen of the United States and to show Pelosi’s point of diversity and stregth amond them. If I was one of them out in the freezing cold, I would agree to the photoshopping too. It’s just not that serious. If she had put in a woman who was not a congresswomen, thats a different story.

    Alot of the comments were really innappropriate and had nothing to do with the photoshopping scandal. One user said this:

    “Itt is not the same photo tomany persons in dirrweent positions ,, but who cares .. Our concern should be the damage this administration is doing to this Nation ..”

    Exactly, why does the photoshop thing need this much attention? If you don’t like Pelosi then come up with a better argument against her.

    • dauneobrien3 says:

      I wonder, though, if the photograph had no other rhetorical motive other than to point out that there “ARE 61” congresswomen, why not have a caption that says something like “not pictured xxxx”? Why not just caption the entire photo “61 WOMEN?” Why a digital photograph posed on the steps of a political icon? Is there no legitimate basis for spectators to take offense, or is the uprising completely driven by political bias?

  4. Emily Schweich says:

    At first glance, I didn’t understand why this photo came under fire. Excluding some of the female Democratic congresswomen would be a misrepresentation of history, and it seemed like Photoshopping the missing women into the picture would be the most inclusive thing to do.

    However, I am disturbed by Pelosi’s statement that, “It was an accurate historical record of who the Democratic women of Congress are.” While the edited photograph does show all of the Democratic women of Congress, I don’t feel like it’s an “ACCURATE historical record” because it isn’t a true depiction of that instant in time. Berger argued in Another Way of Telling that photography cannot lie because it is a “quote” of the image. Berger didn’t consider the future of digital editing software that makes it so easy to alter the truth of a photograph. However, in keeping with his theory of honest photography, this software should be utilized with discretion to maintain the integrity of the photograph.

    One comment stood out as one of the few that didn’t attack House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Party, or women. TJEXCITE commented, “Give it time and they will Photoshop people out of history as well.” This statement seems drastic, but it testifies to the newfound ability to alter our representations of the past. As an aspiring journalist, I have heard the adage, “Journalists write the first draft of history,” and I believe that it can be applied to photographers as well. The choices that journalists and photographers make play major roles in documenting the past, and I feel that it is important to make choices that result in the most authentic representation of events.

    • dauneobrien3 says:

      “While the edited photograph does show all of the Democratic women of Congress, I don’t feel like it’s an “ACCURATE historical record” because it isn’t a true depiction of that instant in time.”—-Emily, I think you get at the crux of (in my opinion) the problem by underscoring the ‘instant in time.’ Alejandro points to this, as well, in his discussion about the inherent nature of the photograph.

  5. alangdon93 says:

    I feel as if the congresswomen are not being acknowledged because they could show up on time to meet at the capital steps to look pretty for a photo. The photo is acknowledging the large number of women working in congress. I feel like this story is not really a story.

    I guess I could relate the “photoshopped” picture to a typed list and the “unphotoshopped” picture to a list of signatures; one seems more intimate that the other. However both are accurate. And frankly, if a sheet of paper was 4 lines short, there is an extreme possibility that one would add some paper to the end of the sheet and continue signing. The four women “photoshopped” in are no different from this. In America, the first time we do something, is not always the best. We have Amendments. Now Amendments are just happening to out pictures. “With great power, comes great responsibility.” As long as these Amendments are used responsibly, we have no problems.

    • dauneobrien3 says:

      I completely understand your argument; the historical event is marked by the total number of congressional women and not by how many women were able to participate in a photo-op. I wonder, then, why use a photographic medium, as opposed to, say, a collection of all individual portraits? Why deliberately choose a medium that inherently depends upon a specific time, space, and location to earmark an event that clearly did not (truthfully) take place within that specific time, space, and location? And is there visual rhetoric at play here?

  6. While most of the comments on this article were slanderous or uninformed, this one by cbrtxus really resonated with me:

    “Why have those people show up at all? Just create the whole thing with Photoshop.”

    The whole prerogative of the photograph was a publicity stunt, so it arose out of perverse motives from the start. You can’t say this picture is an accurate representation, because it doesn’t show everyone who was there, and is just a sloppy attempt at showing that women are in Congress. If it was supposed to be a unifying moment and milestone for women in politics, I think they would have taken the extra five minutes to wait for the women who were late rather than just throwing them in with a sloppy editing job.

    Besides the fact that the photoshop job was sub-par, it reminds me of college brochures or posters that have a token black person, or who recruit random people just to bolster their numbers. They didn’t accomplish their mission of gathering together to represent everyone, and because of that I have to agree that they might as well have just photoshopped everyone in rather than pose for the picture at all.

  7. Ross Fasman says:

    I’m ABOLUTELY INFURIATED. The fact that they are using the Capital Building as a backdrop for a lie is an absolute outrage. I do not want one of the greatest monuments to democracy and strength in the world to stand in the background of a hoax. It is an embarrassment to me as an American and I am NOT HAPPY that this photoshopping occurred.

    Elana said: “The intentions of the photoshop were completely harmless and had nothing to do with altering the truth.”

    I’m going to respectfully disagree. I can understand your point, however, the addition or subtraction of individuals in photographs (only talking about an OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT PHOTO) isn’t democratic. Any public document procured is equally our property; I wouldn’t want anything less than the thorough truth. There should be something similar to slander or libel; if an individual is held accountable for criticizing the press or government, then the press or government should be accountable for disseminating truthful and undoctored information, including photography (unless it poses a threat to national security). If Ross Fasman said “wait a minute, there was only 57 people there” and get charged with slander because the official, albeit photoshopped governmental photograph reveals that 61 were present, I would be in trouble. But there were actually only 57 people there; so why isn’t the government owning up to slander to Ross Fasman?

    The fact is that Pelosi, albeit maybe with good intentions (I’ll give the benefit of doubt), altered a photograph is most certainly a threat to democratic ideals of governmental transparency, free press, and the educated Samaritan. This is an absolute outrage and something that shouldn’t go under the radar just because “she wanted to capture the historical moment.” If it was a historical moment, one that should be archived and exemplified for years to come, make the arrangements to have EVERYBODY there, or if it cannot be done, do not treat the moment as an inconvenience and wait for a more suitable time! It isn’t fair to the millions of men and women who saw this moment as an example and it ins’t fair to the women who actually won the election and weren’t properly honored by being present in the photograph. Again, if it wasn’t a good time, then that wasn’t the moment to stage a photograph that speaks volumes about the progression of democracy- it in fact had the opposite effect.

    This isn’t something to be taken lightly. If this photograph was forged, who’s to say everything else isn’t? How can we truly be confident that our government is truthful when something as simple as a photograph of accomplished, professional Congresswomen is compromised? We trust these types of moments to be inherent in our democracy that we never pause to absorb or seek the truth within them; photographs, especially governmental ones, cannot be given a cursory glance. They must be handled with care and respect by both the photographer and observer. These moments are pure and glorious and should be kept that way. It’s time to treat them with the respect that it deserves and America demands. These are the implications: Stalin photoshops pictures; not the United States of America. This isn’t about Ms. Pelosi; she is a very respectable member in government service and she deserves a lot of respect. This was probably an innocent gaffe, however, we cannot treat the situation with the same innocence or else we threaten to compromise the integrity of our great country’s democratic ideals. I do not want to stand for that. WE, THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, are better than that.

    She did it the same way Obama’s peeps chopped him into the Harvard Law Review pics!!!

    The implications of digitalized story telling are that images are images could end up completely lacking in historical significance and be reduced to mediums for sending messages and for art. The possibility that even the most trifling image did not actually happen in real-life could undermine a photograph’s essential connection to its subject matter. Photographs and images would become independent of the thing they are supposed to depict because it would be impossible to confirm what is real and what is not. The photograph of the Democratic Caucus women would still make its point about the diversity of Congress, but it could no longer be used as pure proof of the fact. Neither will an observer be able to look at it and think confidently that this event happened. Similarly, a more expressive photograph or image produced with the intentions of creating art can still achieve its goals but there will be nothing in it that can link the image with its depictions, thus visual representation will lose its explicitness.

    The consequences of this will be that images and photographs can be easily dismissed with the suggestion they are not “real” and this could be easily used to ignore an image if it does not please a viewer, like in the comment above. Thus the image or photograph’s loss in authenticity and representative power will lead to its inability to move or affect people unless they welcome such affects. It would be hard to be incited by an image’s Punctum if one sees its parts under the light of deception.

    • dauneobrien3 says:

      You raise a really important concern which deals with the long-term effects and the potential corrosive damage to the integrity of photographic storytelling. More than any other narrative, the photographic narrative might well be considered one which demanded the most trust—like looking in a mirror. What are the consequences of this shift?

  9. Digitized story telling definitely impacts its authenticity. With digital media, it is significantly easier to edit and alter photographs, and to do so much more convincingly than ever before. Therefore, with every image, the question of if it has been altered is always brought into question, as anyone has the power to do it. Images can no longer absolutely be accepted as the truth, for even if they are completely original, there will remain for some suspicion that it was photo-shopped or something similar. If an image has been changed after the instant it was taken, then I believe it to be no longer authentic, because it no longer shows exactly what was occurring at that moment in time, which seems to be one of the primary purposes of a photograph. A picture that has been edited is no longer ‘that-has-been’, but something that never happened. In this particular case, I don’t see it as a huge issue, as the women who were artificially placed into the picture would have been in the actual picture if they had arrived earlier, therefore the editing is only creating the photo that they intended to take and was not an extreme manipulation of reality. But, this also impacts its representation ability. An image that has been changed is no longer an accurate or true representation of anything. It now presents a fake story, something the editor wishes to portray as opposed to what actually occurred.
    AVENGERK commented:
    This is another example of liberal “good intentions” rather than truth or fact or historical record.
    I think that this commenter makes a good point, because the partial fabrication of this image becomes a manipulation of history, as it is being used as proof of an event that never in reality occurred.

  10. When referring to the authenticity of photographs, one has to be skeptical of the realistic about the authenticity of photographs. When telling a story through any means, there will be a suspended belief throughout simply due to the fact that it is a story and mainly one-sided. The story is told in a slightly less than authentic way–do to photoshop or a biased point-of-view. The fact that there was photoshop used within photography is not so surprising since that is inherently why photoshop was created. One has to look at the intention of the photo. This is akin to a family or school photo where the intention of the photo is to present the world with a representation of a group, not necessarily to report the news. That being said, there should still be authenticity but I am more willing to forgive them for this. It’s easy to get on one’s high-horse, but maybe four people photoshopped within one photo should not be the topic we pick.

    Yoursensei wrote: Technology does as every advancement does – offer a use for good or bad. Both are assured

    I think it is an interesting distinction to make, clearly the intention was for good yet is seen in a negative light. I am not saying what they did was right, I am simply saying that this is not such a big deal.

  11. While I do think that photoshopping the four female congresswomen into this photo does undermine its authenticity, I don’t think that is a problem for what this photograph’s purpose is. While I agree with those above who said that photoshopping this picture denies its legitimacy as covering a “moment in time”, I don’t think that necessarily matters. The photoshopped picture is the sum of all moments over the course of this term. It may have been inaccurate for that moment on the capital steps, but it was accurate, as Pelosi said, for representing the women in Congress.
    As for the reason this was done in photograph instead of in a text based medium, for example, I believe it is because visual political rhetoric is simply more powerful that language-based rhetoric! It is easier to rally people behind a symbol than simply a list of names.

  12. esrayagoub says:

    I don’t think the digital age has had as big of an impact as people assume it has on story-telling using photographs. Photos have always been subjective. There is not much authenticity if you think about it, because photos could always be staged, or merely not capture the whole image. I concede that before Photoshop an represented a second a time, something that actually happened regardless of why it happened. Even so, if a false caption was added the photo would the be an accurate representation.

    In regards to Pelosi’s photo, I don’t think she should have received as much criticism as she did. Although she did not take the photo herself, by sharing it she became the operator. Her goal was to reflect upon women in office and their diversity. And I think she succeeded in doing so, but that may not be how others see it.

    I think this reader had the right idea…
    Posted on January 4, 2013 at 3:10pm
    This is another example of liberal “good intentions” rather than truth or fact or historical record.

  13. Digital photos are easier to manipulate and change after they have been taken than film-based photographs. This means that images of scenes that never actually happened circulate widely on the Internet and that a healthy sense of skepticism is needed for viewing any picture that looks like it deviates from our expected reality. This is taken as a matter of course, but most of the time we accept as given those photos that seem to be telling us what we already know. For example, the picture of the Democratic congresswomen confirmed what we knew or were being told by a trusted source – that there are now sixty-one female Democratic representatives in Congress. Thus, it would not immediately invite skepticism or scrutiny, because it makes sense. Also, in this case the photoshopping was done well enough that the addition of the four women in the back is not noticeable. It conforms to our expectations. This photo, though, does ask important questions about authenticity with digital photography. The photoshopped picture shows something that did not ever truly exist – sixty-one congresswomen standing on the steps at that exact moment in time and space. But it did achieve what the photographer wanted to convey – that there are sixty-one Democratic congresswomen in the current legislative session. Which truth is correct and will be remembered into history? That of the photographer’s, which is just that these women all existed and worked in the same session of Congress? Or that of the moment in time that the photo purports to encapsulate? This example makes clear that it can be nearly impossible to discern the truth behind a digital image that one did not capture. But, then again, this is true of all photographs – that the image’s meaning can be elucidated or obscured by the text (or lack thereof) surrounding it. Thus, the fact that digital media can be easily changed simply highlights how hard it can be to determine authenticity in any photograph.

  14. shjones says:

    As this article clearly points out, modern technology can offer up many potentially detrimental effects when it comes to the supposed accurate portrayal of something. In this case, of course, I am referring to the addition of four women who were not in the picture. All political affiliations aside, I feel that I have to dispute what many people are saying about public reaction. First of all, what Pelosi did was lie to the public. Sure, there may have been four other women there just outside the picture, but the fact of the matter is that they were not standing there when the picture was taken. The situation wasn’t nearly dire or important enough to even consider calling for such a matter. In addition, Pelosi should have known that she could be uncovered and would come under heavy fire for her actions. This is the nature of politics, and it has been for a long time. Why any politician would commit such a risky move for so little I can only imagine. All of this being said, I do think there is oftentimes an overreaction to altered representation in the media. Individuals in the 21st century should realize by now that this is the reality of modern free press: not everything you see in the media is true. As one reader commented on the article

    ” Technology does as every advancement does, offers good and bad.”

    Although he doesn’t seem to understand that “technology” is not limited to photoshop, his main message is true. Such drawbacks are part of the package we get when we invent new “technology”. I believe that it is the role of the spectator to be weary of what they are viewing, not because the producers of the image are in the right, but because they are unlikely to change their ways anytime soon.

  15. Although digital editing may not express the truth of a photograph, it can not be banished completely. In many ways, captions and text that go with an image can have the same effect as digital editing. For example, in class today, we discussed how the story of Mohr making animal sounds to the blind girl was a little far fetched and hard to believe. It is possible that he was lying to us in order to change the meaning ad story of the photo.

    There are many more serious examples of photo editing than this one. The members of the group that Pelosi was talking about did exist and are in office, they just were not able to be present for the photograph. Not truth is being morphed, all people, in fact, were being represented.

    CBRTXUS made a good point in his/her comment.

    “That’s not news. If the Republicans did it, it would be a scandal. Why have those people show up at all? Just create the whole thing with Photoshop.”

    Government money was paying for this meeting and the staff that was required to take this photograph. So why not just photo-shop the whole crew together?

    I just think that this is on the very mild end of the photo-shop “spectrum” and is being blown way out of proportion.

  16. Obviously, digital editing hinders the authenticity of a photograph, but in some cases it helps to better the representation. As in this incident, sure, the picture was not 100% accurate because all 61 women were not on those steps in that position at that exact time. However, the point of the photograph is to represent those 61 women and their work in Congress. Besides, it’s not as if the four women that were PhotoShopped were not there at all, they simply came late.

    I really do not understand why this is in the news. It is just a reason for people to complain about Pelosi more than they already do. If you look at the comments, they are all sexist or bashing Pelosi. You can tell the ignorance of the people commenting by their comments about how the two pictures shown in the article are not the same. The caption under the second photograph even says “This is not the original photo that was photoshopped.” The only person who seems to be showing any intelligence is YOURSENSEI when he says “This is what you must know: Technology does as every advancement does- offer a use for good or bad. Both are assured. It is so.” If this had been any other photograph that was PhotoShopped, that did not have to do with politics, people would not care because PhotoShop is not a bad thing.

  17. megmck12 says:

    The comment that most resonated with me was by ‘totallynotatroll’ and said:
    “I love how photoshopping people into pictures qualifies as ‘historically accurate’ now. I’m going to start making many more ‘accurate’ pictures right now…”

    On one hand, I am frustrated with how big of a deal this is. It seems petty; a bad decision blown out of proportion by people searching for criticisms. On the other hand, the integrity of this photograph has been incredibly compromised–like this commenter said, it is not an accurate photo. Seeing as this photo was distributed by our government and propagated by news, this is disturbing. The purpose of the picture was to accurately portray women in democracy and in our government. Yet by cutting corners, whoever photoshopped this picture negated its purpose and compromised its accuracy.

    Obviously, there are many negative implications of photoshopping or digitally modifying photos meant to be seen as authentic. First, there will be incredibly lash back from the public. However petty and and trivial its motivations may be, this outcry is not without merit. In a country that in theory lacks censorship, the public reserves the right to view unadulterated images. These images have the potential to be changed by context and personal projections, so adding false digital effects lessens even more the ability of a photograph to be evidence. It would have been so simple to create this photograph in a way that it could be historically accurate, and achieving its purpose.

  18. maxinesrich says:

    While I understand the negative associations many people make with Photoshop, in this case I do not understand the uproar. Yes, the photo is not exactly true in Barthes sense of, “that has been,” but the event that this image represents, the greatest amount of women ever sworn into Congress, is still true. This photo does indeed reflect reality. These women are real people, who resemble their images in this photograph, and were indeed all in attendance on that day in Washington. The issue at hand is that a few of them were late and thus their images were substituted into the picture.

    I feel that this has become a news story simply because of angry partisan implications. Any opportunity that one party may take to criticize and call out the other is an opportunity they tend to take. This was best highlighted in Woodyee’s comment, “Fraud is okay in her book, just as long as the end justifies the means.” and Timmy_Northwest’s subsequent comment, “The liberal mantra!” This is not outright fraud, even though the image has been doctored. The image is a reflection of reality, but is being used as an outlet for partisan anger and tensions.

  19. I am actually avidly against Photoshop in many ways when it comes to using it in the representation of women in the media, the general depiction of beauty, and dramatizing a tragic event. However, in this case where it is just the mere representation of displaying how many women are in a party caucus, I do not have a problem with it. This picture was not meant to deceive anyone about the truth of how many women are in the Democratic Party caucus. The intention of taking this picture was not with a photojournalistic approach (in which the image depicted was intended to be the accurate, real time occurrence) but rather to put this history in a tangible and visual image. The comments on this article are absolutely appalling and disgusting. A good majority of the comments are just pertaining to Pelosi’s facelifts and claims that she has committed treason. However, I did find one comment that I could relate to the most:

    Cbrtxus: “That’s not news. If the Republicans did it, it would be a scandal. Why have those people show up at all? Just create the whole thing with Photoshop.”

    I agree with this commenter. To make this into a news article seems a little unnecessary and is making something out of nothing. This article reminds me of the pointless articles that come out about a celebrity gaining ten pounds. I also agree with this comment in that how is contradicts the majority of the comments in which they claim that this is a specifically a democratic lie and tactic. If republicans did it, it would also be news.

    Photoshop is such a growing technology that so many photos go through before being sent out to the public, as the commenter also cleverly highlights. This photo is not a lie in terms of what they are trying to represent. The inaccuracy lies within who was actually on those steps, but does that matter? That wasn’t the point of the picture. The point is to show the public WHO are the women in the party caucus and HOW MANY women are there.

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