Seeing is Believing?

Woman holding a vintage camera up to her face.

Photo tampering has been prevalent since the invention of photography. In 1917, a ‘Fairy’ photograph was circulated in England and received mixed public reaction1. It was later revealed that the photograph had been faked. Elise Wright created ‘fairies’ using cardboard, took photos with it and she claimed that it was real.

With technological advances, we can be subjected to greater visual manipulation. In fact, what we see on the print media nowadays has been enhanced for aesthetic reason. The question here would be how much altering is too much and what is the ethical limit? Check out a list of photos that has been doctored in 2012 for various media purposes here.

Untruthful representation of product undermines the brand or corporation credibility and value. The recent incident of Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) train ‘open door’ photo  made the headlines at STOMP (SPH online news website) and led to a public outcry. SMRT launched an investigation and discovered that there is no way the train can operate when the door is open therefore the photo is fake.

SPH’s editor-in-chief English & Malay Newspaper Division of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), had to apologise to interim SMRT CEO Tan Ek Kia. It was a mistake by one of SPH staff and has been dismissed since the incident2.

It’s a serious mistake because it affected public confidence towards public transport and it’s also a form of damage to SMRT. It is unethical to alter a photo as a journalist to sell a news story.

References (1917) The Ethics of Digital Manipulation. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 9 Jan 2013]. (2012) SPH embarrassed by fake photo of SMRT train. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 9 Jan 2013].



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