Doctored photo?
May 5, 2003 3:58 AM   Subscribe

The Memory Hole: doctored photo? 'On 9 April 2003, the front page of the London Evening Standard (circulation: 400,000) contained a blurry image supposedly showing a throng of Iraqis in Baghdad celebrating the toppling of Saddam Hussein. What we are really looking at is an incredibly ham-fisted attempt at photo manipulation. ' Opinions?
posted by plep (28 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
For some historical context - it is now known that Khaldei's famous photo of the Soviet flag over the Reichstag in 1945 was itself doctored.
posted by plep at 4:03 AM on May 5, 2003

Ham, meet fist.

Clumsy and transparently apparent to anyone who has ever done bad photoshop remixes.


The Memory Hole is a great, great site.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:25 AM on May 5, 2003

see also: this article from the Information Clearing House.
posted by KnitWit at 4:28 AM on May 5, 2003

So, is the London Evening Standard considered a real newspaper or a daily tabloid?
posted by mischief at 4:45 AM on May 5, 2003

For those that missed it, there was a good discussion about a month ago about a Photoshop scandal at the LA times. Something about that page layout reminded me of this.
posted by eddydamascene at 5:16 AM on May 5, 2003

If it is a photoshop, whay waste all that time and disk space? Why not just take a picture of the actual crowds celebrating and cavorting?

~conspiracy?~ ~quagmire?~

The poor Tower of Pisa! Now skating will never be the same.
posted by hama7 at 5:24 AM on May 5, 2003

eddydamascene, now you know the truth about the reptilian shape-shifters I'm afraid we will have to kill you. :-)

The Guardian has an article on the Standard photo as well. Of interest:
In a statement, the paper told the Guardian: "The image was a video grab ... as is customary practice, the TV station's small logos were removed and a replicated part of the background inserted. A transmission error led to a tiny blurred patch, no more than 1/30th the size of the picture, appearing on the top of the frame.
"The Memory Hole website alleges the Standard intended to deceive readers by inflating the size of the crowd. Wrong. It also claims we put together two different still-frames. Wrong again ... the Standard stands by its use of this page one picture."
That's their defense, anyway.
posted by Bletch at 5:27 AM on May 5, 2003

There's definitely an underlying "All Arabs look alike" attitude at work. And the message is still, Pythonesquely: "Why aren't there more Iraqis rejoicing, Godammit?"

Proper newspapers reproduce TV grabs with the station logo, of course. Else readers think they were looking at an actual photograph. When there's been manipulation, it's standard to signal "photomontage" along one of the vertical margins.

Great post, plep. Paraphrasing the line in Eliot, "you do the Postman in different voices." :)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:34 AM on May 5, 2003

There's definitely an underlying "All Arabs look alike" attitude at work.

Well, no, there isn't, at least as far as I can tell. There is a definite 'that's the worst use of the clone tool I've seen outside of Fark' attitude, though, definitely.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:40 AM on May 5, 2003

Mischief asked: So, is the London Evening Standard considered a real newspaper or a daily tabloid?

It's what's called "middle-market", in other words neither a dirty tabloid nor a respected broadsheet. The Evening Standard is known for a conservative bias which informs its views on everything from congestion charging to smoking bans to the war on Iraq. The journalism tends to be reactionary and sometimes badly-researched.

ES Magazine, the colour supplement which comes with the Evening Standard on a Friday, is particularly offensive, glorifying "It Girls", haute couture and teenage aristocrats in private members' clubs. It's aspirational, ie it promotes a lifestyle which the average reader can never even hope to experience.

The Standard can boast the wonderfully ascerbic Victor Lewis-Smith as TV critic, however.
posted by skylar at 5:41 AM on May 5, 2003

The Evening Standard is the only daily London newspaper of any quality, and it's still bloody terrible. I never buy it.

But then, I never buy newspapers these days.

I use the web.

It's free.

I'm poor.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 6:02 AM on May 5, 2003

Example: they had a lead article in the magazine calling for the legalisation of squirrel shooting in London's parks. It was clear that nobody in the newspaper thought this was a good idea. It was because they wanted something controversial and couldn't think of anything else. So it's not a proper newspaper.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 6:11 AM on May 5, 2003

Khaldei's famous photo of the Soviet flag over the Reichstag in 1945 was itself doctored.

I'm a little confused about this, how was it doctored exactly? So it wasn't the flag that was raised at 10:30 PM the night before. The Mt. Suribachi flag wasn't the one raised in the battle either, but they are adamant that we know that "no, it was not staged." Well by that standard, no, the Reichstag photo was not doctored.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:57 AM on May 5, 2003

Next thing you tell me will be that Kiss: Alive was doctored as well.

posted by corpse at 7:23 AM on May 5, 2003

Geez ... the paper clearly needs to upgrade to Photoshop v7, and maybe take a couple of courses. Stavros is right - I've seen better work on Fark.
posted by MidasMulligan at 7:51 AM on May 5, 2003

Well, as Mark Twain was reported to say, "Don't believe anything you read and only half of what you see," except, if factual, we obviously can't believe anything at this point - so, believe what you want to, you will anyway. That sux...
posted by Pressed Rat at 8:06 AM on May 5, 2003

Still photos grabbed off of Reuters

Got more goods on this? Fascinating stuff that sits well with my worldview...but. Not that I don't trust IndyMedia as the final word in quality journalism, but I don't.

It'd be nice to see the original - and some context. If the photo was taken a little while before or after the "main event", there's no real story here, right?
posted by freebird at 10:16 AM on May 5, 2003

I agree with Pollomacho; nothing seems to indicate the Khaldei photo was doctored. And I'd be very suspicious of a site that mentions in an aside that the Arabs' "only dream is to re-create the Holocaust again." (Of course, that will recommend it to hama7.)
posted by languagehat at 10:17 AM on May 5, 2003

Ugh, I didn't see that languagehat. Thanks for the heads up (again).

On reflection, 'doctored' might be the wrong word; 'staged' it is though. Of course, there's a lot of grey between total spontaneity and something being totally staged, too. Regardless, the Khaldei's photo is one of the great ones of the Second World War - staged or not. (And he was undoubtedly influenced by the Iwo Jima photo too).
posted by plep at 10:27 AM on May 5, 2003

Here's another piece on the Khaldei photograph (again, from the point of view that it was staged/doctored), which is from a less offensive source. Take a look as see what you think.
posted by plep at 10:37 AM on May 5, 2003

Still sounds equivalent to the Mt. Suribachi photo. There was a flag raised during the battle for Iwo Jima, but the famous photo shows the event after the battle had died down where marines "planted" the flag on the mountain top. Suribachi is the core of a dormant volcano, a solid igneous rock protruding out of the sea, pretty hard to put up a flag pole there too, as a matter of fact the pole was held in place by piling rocks around its base. I still don't see why we call the Reichstag shot "doctored" and not Iwo Jima. Seems they are pretty much the same image.

Interesting though that the Soviets showed an individual, despite the Soviet ideals of collective accomplishment while the American shot has a group of men raising the flag despite the capitalist ideal of individual achievement.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:13 AM on May 5, 2003

Gee, now why oh why would there be a need for these "carefully constructed media events" in a country supposedly welcoming the "liberators" with open arms?

Er, so you think Iraqis are longing for the good old days under Saddam?
posted by MidasMulligan at 11:46 AM on May 5, 2003

Most Iraqis have never known a world without Saddam, although brutal and tyrannical at least they lived their normal lives, now they live in the dark and stand in line for American food and water rations and get robbed each night and get hoods thrown over their heads and plastic handcuffs strapped on when they try to defend themselves. I'd bet there's a whole lot of Iraqis that are longing for the good old Saddam days, Midas.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:15 PM on May 5, 2003

Pollomacho :- I actually agree with you about the Iwo Jima photo (that link notwithstanding). :) Both the Reichstag and the Iwo Jima photos are still great images.
posted by plep at 12:26 PM on May 5, 2003

Aside :- I posted this as an interesting and useful of information, not for people to rip each other to pieces over, especially as I like each and every one of you so much.
posted by plep at 12:45 PM on May 5, 2003

Sorry plep, I think that's the way the MeFi cookie crumbles sometimes.

I'm sure that as things come together in Iraq and marshall law changes to fledgling democracy, people will learn that self governance can be very gratifying (just as self gratification can become very governing), but right now I'd bet many folks would prefer iron fisted dictatorship to the violent chaos that is Iraq at present.
posted by Pollomacho at 2:23 PM on May 5, 2003

Er, so you think Iraqis are longing for the good old days under Saddam?

So when are you going to stop beating your wife?
posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:41 PM on May 5, 2003

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