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Thursday, October 09, 2008

The normal flaws


Before I start, I am going to acknowledge that I do not have nearly as much experience in photojournalism as some of my readers. I know that some of you are professional photographers, and I invite your responses. I personally have no more hands-on experience than anyone else who has worked as a reporter at a weekly newspaper, although I did take classes in photojournalism in j-school. I would not want to give anyone the impression that I have a lot of experience in this field.

Our friends at Fox News are very, very upset about this Newsweek cover. They think it makes Ms. Palin look terrible.

Yeah, I was confused, too. Ms. Palin is a former beauty queen; although I've been clear about the way I feel about her, I can't deny that she is attractive.

Apparently Fox News and the Republicans are furious, because this photo was not retouched.

Yeah, I'm still confused, too. The picture looks really nice to me. I don't see a need to retouch it. And even if it was a bad photo, retouching is against photojournalism ethics.

This clip has to be seen to be believed, but in case you're at work, here are some of the points the reporter (!!!) made:

  • You can't actually see the problems on TV, so you'll have to trust her. (Actually, you shouldn't trust her. I've posted the photo, so you can see it for yourself.)
  • Barack Obama was on Newsweek's cover and they literally put a halo on him. (No, they didn't. The image is backlit. You can see it clearly in this clip.)
  • Any respectable magazine should be retouching its photos. THAT'S WHAT MAGAZINES DO. (Uh...not news magazines, dummy. You must be thinking of Cosmo.)
  • Barack Obama looks perfect on ALL magazine covers! (Really? Are those wrinkles? Does he have a wart?)
  • The article is really mean, but does offer a counter-point from Karl Rove. (I can't tell. Is this supposed to be a positive thing?)
This photo is obviously a clear slap in the face. Women are ugly in close-up shots, and everyone knows that! This photo highlights every imperfection. Any woman would be shocked and horrified. Meanwhile, Barack Obama is hot, hot, hot on all of the magazine covers. It's just not fair. What we need is MORE manipulation in the media so that people don't look the way they actually look.

I keep thinking that this is a joke, but apparently it's all real. I'll go really slowly, because, after all, it IS Fox News:

Ms. Palin is beautiful.

This photo is really nice.

Retouching news photos is unethical.

Photo editing is an art. Editors choose photos to tell a story, and some minor manipulation is allowed. For example, a photo can be cropped or blown up. It can be published in black & white instead of full colour. Some publications allow photos to be flipped; others do not. Combining or retouching photos is a definite no-no. Photo illustrations have to be clearly labelled. The fundamental principle is that news photos should accurately reflect a moment, even if they were taken in a photo shoot, like this one obviously was.

Photo editors also have a lot of freedom in selecting images: they are in no way required to choose photos that are flattering, although most try not to publish pictures that are ugly. This particular photo looks like it's from the same set as the cover shot from a few weeks ago:
This cover shot was also very nice, and I didn't hear any screaming about it. But then, that was before Ms. Palin showed herself to be one of the stupidest people I've ever seen in national politics.

Normally we don't see our female politicians as pin-up models who need every "flaw" to be airbrushed away, but apparently that's how Fox News and this disgusting Republican strategist see Ms. Palin. She's a celebrity who should be looked at, not listened to. It's an insult to publish photos of her unless they've been retouched.

I suspect that if Ms. Palin was capable of stringing a sentence together, nobody would care how pretty she is.

(H/T to Bloggasm.)


Ricki said...

Obviously, these people have never looked at photos of CANADIAN politicians on magazine covers or in newspapers. . . remember how horrid they made Chretien look--in EVERY photo?

Anonymous said...

Oh...God...I'm not a feminist, but I think the whole feminist movement just fizzled and died. I...I...I don't know what to do about this. Fox is calling Palin ugly. The Fox Republican correspondent called herself ugly. I don't get it!!

I'm going to cry now. And this is why I can't stand Fox News. Disgrace to the American public...

Mack the Hack said...

Interesting personal story...It wasn't until I moved to New Zealand for awhile that I realized why America seemed so insane. Around midnight, there were a few hours of American news programming aired on the paltry # of TV channels in KiwiLand (They really aren't joking much when they crack wise about it in Flight of the Conchords). One of the shows was from Voice of America, and the other was Fox and Friends. All I could think to myself, half a world away, was that I had a pretty good idea which one would have the higher ratings back in my old stomping grounds. One of the advantages of being a huge distance away from your constant (and occasionally batshit crazy) neighbour is that absence gives you a little perspective.

After a particularly heinous episode of Fox and Friends, made all the more surreal by the incongruity of watching an American morning show around 1 in the morning, 16 time zones away, I kept thinking to myself, 'If this was the info I was getting, I'd be batshit crazy, too!'

Anonymous said...

I can't believe this even made news, even Fox News.
The anchor asks viewers what they think so now I'm overly curious about the feedback.

KOTN said...


jen said...

Here is what I could see them doing:

Cropping better so that her ear doesn't look so massive.

Lightening that dark spot between her front and second tooth, looks like a possible poppy seed lol.

Softening wrinkles on chin, eyes and forehead.

Cloning out dark spot on nose.

(all in all not much, no zits are blemishes to speak of lol)

But I totally agree, this is news and shouldn't be manipulated. I think she is gorgeous just the way she is and I don't think this photo puts her in a bad light at all. More female shots need to be like this so we can see what real woman look like.

Karen said...

These are the same people who didn't want any reporter to criticize Palin, because that was sexist. But promoting her beauty and not her brain, apparently, is not sexist. I give up.