A Danish photo news agency recently tasked two of its photogs with creating a series that shows how easy it is to lie through photography. By shooting before and after photos of the same scene, they showed how angle and perspective can, consciously or not, manipulate viewers and lead to accusations of fake news.
The series was produced by Philip Davali and Ólafur Steinar Rye Gestsso, who were assigned to complete the piece by the Danish photo news agency Ritzau Scanpix. It was born out of the heated debates we’ve seen—and even written about recently—around images that allegedly show people flouting social distancing guidelines. Whether it’s a photo of a “crowded” beach in California, or viral photos used to shame people on social media, it’s all too easy for these images to be deceptive in nature.
As a photo agency supplying the media with coverage about the coronavirus outbreak, Scanpix‘s Editorial Manager Kristian Djurhuus tells PetaPixel that they felt it was important to draw attention to this fact.
Though Djurhuus says that he doesn’t believe there has been any sort of “conscious manipulation” taking place, at least not in Denmark, photographers and photo agencies must be careful that they don’t inadvertently open the door to misinterpretation. Angle and perspective can easily—and unconsciously—sow misinformation and spark outrage. Eventually, this can lead to a total mistrust of photography itself.
Scroll down to see this concept demonstrated visually, in a set of before-and-after photos:
It’s important to note that this isn’t just about lens choice and background compression. The effect shown above can easily be achieved using the same lens, by simply working different angles. As photographers we, of course, know this instinctively. But the average person does not.
“Readers of photography need to be aware of this,” said Djurhuus when we spoke to him over email. “This is a case where a basic, nerdy photography-fact has gained new meaning, because of a global event […] these times have made it obvious that we somehow need to make users and readers of images aware of something that only photographers used to care about.”
Hopefully the photos above help to send that message. Ritzau is also using captions to clarify circumstances and ensure photos aren’t misused. But in the end, it’s up to photographers to shoot carefully, caption accurately, and educate the public whenever and however they can.
Image credits: All photos by Philip Davali and Ólafur Steinar Rye Gestsso, used courtesy of Ritzau Scanpix.