Don McCullin

Digital images can't be trusted, says war photographer Don McCullin | Art and design | The Guardian

One of Britain’s most celebrated and respected photographers has lamented the digital domination of his field, calling it “a totally lying experience” that cannot be trusted.Don McCullin, one of the world’s finest photographers of war and disaster, said the digital revolution meant viewers could no longer trust the truthfulness of images they see.

Source: Digital images can't be trusted, says war photographer Don McCullin | Art and design | The Guardian

Ok, so before I go anywhere with this, I absolutely think McCullin is a legend. The things he has seen and reported would reduce me to absolute nothing, a wreck of a man, and perhaps it does to him too, sometimes. But to imply that digital can't be trusted infers that film is truth. It isn't, just a version of it. And just because it's film, doesn't mean to say it's impervious to being played with. McCullin has done it himself, although he (and others) will no doubt argue that he's played within the rules. Maybe he has, but that isn't to say that he hasn't played.

Some years ago, I went to McCullin's retrospective at the IWM in Manchester, there a photograph of his "Shell Shocked US Marine, Hue, Vietnam, February 1968" sat beside a smaller version that contained the printing notes (see here). McCullin hasn't moved pixels, but he's changed the way the image comes across. He's made it more dramatic. More striking. More newsworthy. I want to stress that this is indeed within the bounds of what I deem to be acceptable. It's what I do in PS too. A bit of dodging, a bit of burning and tweaking the contrast.

Is dodging and burning for dramatic effect any different to making things look "attractive"? I don't think so.

I agree that there is an ease to these things with PS, and yes, people will move some pixels around, remove blemishes and make people look thinner. They'll even add people or remove them. This used to happen in the "olden" days too though. I remember OJ Simpson was made to look darker on the cover of Time when he was on trial, and the Russians were well known for it in the 1930s and 40s (this was discussed on the TV series Genius of Photography with Rodchenko's White Sea Canal, 1933). And what about Rejoinder? Yeah, it goes on. And it went on beforehand too.

I've not even started on framing and composition and (yet again) Errol Morris' elephant.

Photography can't be "trusted", period.