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Thread: image as evidence

  1. #1
    Senior Member nostatic's Avatar
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    image as evidence

    I was about to post this in the "what's the point" thread but it really is a different topic. What say you about the issue of image as evidence? The adage is that "a picture is worth a thousand words," and image was used as proof routinely.

    Today, "photoshop" is a common verb, and the still image is now suspect. A picture does not provide solid evidence or documentation anymore, though it still carries some weight, and likely always will be able to sway emotion.

    This is part of the analog to digital conversion problem (another book I'm working on), and while I've discussed this topic with other artists (mostly sculptors and painters), never specifically with a group of photographers. Thoughts?

  2. #2
    ddk
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    Re: image as evidence

    Quote Originally Posted by nostatic View Post
    I was about to post this in the "what's the point" thread but it really is a different topic. What say you about the issue of image as evidence? The adage is that "a picture is worth a thousand words," and image was used as proof routinely.

    Today, "photoshop" is a common verb, and the still image is now suspect. A picture does not provide solid evidence or documentation anymore, though it still carries some weight, and likely always will be able to sway emotion.

    This is part of the analog to digital conversion problem (another book I'm working on), and while I've discussed this topic with other artists (mostly sculptors and painters), never specifically with a group of photographers. Thoughts?
    I don't think that things have changed, a good photograph is still worth a thousand words, I don't see what does this have to do with it being used as proof. You forget that people have been staging scenes and forging documents for a very long time, its not new. The only difference is that they use a computer to do it these days.

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    Subscriber Member TRSmith's Avatar
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    Re: image as evidence

    Not to veer too far off the ethical direction the thread seems to imply, but there are many areas where photographs are routinely used as "proof" or evidence.

    In my very early days as a medical photographer it was common practice to photograph surgery that included everything from the bizarre to the most basic surgical procedures. Those photographs often ended up in text books and helped train aspiring medical professionals. It was all analog in those days, but there were a variety of techniques employed that enhanced "evidence" or pathology, i.e., IR and UV were frequently used. I also provided macro photography to illustrate the minute, and photomicroscopy to show the really, really minute.

    Popular media has made the use of photographs for crime scene evidence gathering seem commonplace. And I'm sure there are many other examples of photography being used for it's most basic purpose—to make a visual record of an event or location. In those instances it's less about artistry and all about technical accuracy.

    I think "technical" photography is an overlooked but important aspect of photography. It might be a less glamorous function, but it is extremely valuable nonetheless. It can be an excellent way to describe, teach, demonstrate, and yes even prove.

  4. #4
    Senior Member nostatic's Avatar
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    Re: image as evidence

    no ethics really implied on my part, but rather just an observation. I'm talking about a broader issue than just a photo as legal evidence, but rather the weight that photos have carried over the years, and how "photoshop" (more accurately, digital) has changed that. While forgery and staged scenes have been around for a long time, a viewer wouldn't really think of that unless the photo in question was quite odd or egregious. These days, most any photo is called into question, and in fact there is a whole genre of "remixed" images.

    Images still have the power to sway and move people, and that means that digital has enabled a new wave of "soft power." The manipulation of image along with viral distribution possibilities makes for very interesting times. But is there an accompanied erosion of "image"? Will "photoshopping" lead to image being marginalized in society, or rather open up a whole new avenue for communication?

    Part of this is wrapped up in the topic of visual literacy, and why the arts are important in school. Those that understand the new media will be the ones that can control it, and those that don't, won't. This is why I believe in amateur cultural production and moving towards a creative society as opposed to a mostly consumptive one.

    I actually gave a talk on some aspects of this 2 years ago. If you're so inclined, a short movie of the slide is here (the last half is about analog/digital producer/consumer):

    http://nostatic.com/work/diyTimed-web.mov

  5. #5
    Oxide Blu
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    Re: image as evidence

    Quote Originally Posted by TRSmith View Post
    Not to veer too far off the ethical direction the thread seems to imply, but there are many areas where photographs are routinely used as "proof" or evidence.

    In my very early days as a medical photographer it was common practice to photograph surgery that included everything from the bizarre to the most basic surgical procedures. Those photographs often ended up in text books and helped train aspiring medical professionals. ...
    I have a family member that uses digital cameras to gather evidence for prosecution of very high priority crimes. Many diff cameras are used, the exact same models commonly available to anyone. The way it works is a brand new CF card is always used. The images are named/numbered by the camera. The entire card with every image on it is copied for use by the defense. If a single image is missing from a CF card, the card and every image on it cannot by used by the prosecution. A chain of custody is established from the time the CF card is put in the camera until the copy of it is handed over to the defense. A CF card is never reused, to remove any doubt about the possibility of latent data from a previous digital image contaminating another digital image. That's all there is to it.

    Your comment about using medical images and publishing them is interesting. I'm at that age where colonoscopies are a part of my life. A bunch of papers have to be signed because it is a "procedure". Reading the fine print I found a paragraph that says I agree to allow pix to be taken and published without compensation. I crossed out the entire paragraph and noted my disagreement where I signed, not that I would ever know if someone did take a pic and publish it. Hey, its my colon! If anyone is going to be making money off it or it's irregularities I want to be paid as the model.

  6. #6
    Oxide Blu
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    Re: image as evidence

    Quote Originally Posted by nostatic View Post
    ... the weight that photos have carried over the years, and how "photoshop" (more accurately, digital) has changed that.
    I think "digital" has made everything temporary or disposable. Not just photos, everything, including video, music, and pix. Printed photos have less value now because they can easily be replaced, digital data doesn't degrade, and the potential for quick, unlimited reproduction. Everyone has a digital camera and is a digital photographer and gives away prints to friends. Hang them on the fridge for a week or two, then toss 'em when new prints arrive. Everyone has their home movies up on YouTube. Everyone that makes "music" has desktop published their own music CD. Digital=disposable, because the magnitude of product is overwhelming.

    Personally, and this is just me, I buy photographic art, but only if it is silver based, real photos, e.g. light is used to create the final image. I pay a lot of money for the images. But I wouldn't give you $2 for any digital print. The $2 limit because I do buy digitally captured/printed postcards from local folks, usually cost $1.

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