A Whole New World
April 14, 2004 1:10 PM   Subscribe

A .psd is worth a thousand words. As images are used more and more as propaganda, and Photoshop becomes ever more available to the masses, where are we headed? How can you continue to believe your eyes?
posted by _sirmissalot_ (31 comments total)
(Props to my brother, who emailed me some of these things.)
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 1:12 PM on April 14, 2004

this is what makes metafilter so great
posted by Keyser Soze at 1:34 PM on April 14, 2004

There actually seems to be some extended debate going on right now about which of those pictures with the cardboard sign is real. There are much larger version of both photos out there if people want to play junior detective. Hoax or no, the first photo has apparently already been aired on various arab TV channels, and the damage done.

I'd like to think this is just an education issue, over time people would learn that photos can be very easily doctored, and to wait for corroboration before believing an odd photo to be real. However, my pessimistic side is telling me this is only get worse, as people are all too happy to accept without questioning anything that agrees with their worldview/political slant.
posted by malphigian at 1:37 PM on April 14, 2004

Hmm, how can one tell which is the original and which has been farked (a better and more accurate verb than photoshopped imo)? Is there a scientific way?
posted by chaz at 1:43 PM on April 14, 2004

as long as there has been photography there has been alteration of the images. What we look back on as crude drawings on photographs to change things was seen--at the time--to be fairly realistic because people weren't as familiar with the medium.

before that there was the funky drawings of Patagonians, dragons, etc...as factual representations.

Hmm, how can one tell which is the original and which has been farked

viewing the originals certainly helps...looking for differences in moire patterns and jpeg distorion, color/textue differences, etc...all clues.
posted by th3ph17 at 1:48 PM on April 14, 2004

It seems to me that the "killed" one is more internally consistent as far as the shapes of the letters... but it could also be that both of them have been farked, and the original says something totally different like "Hi Mom" or whatever.

In any case even if the "killed" one is real, it's not a big deal to me because this kind of gallows humor is emblematic of war. Anyone whose ever read any war novel will know this. Now of course we live in a world where this can be zapped all over the place in a matter of seconds, so the repercussions of battlefield humor are a lot different.

People need to remember that CAIR is a media group, so they latch onto whatever is in the media to get their name out there. Not helpful for anyone.
posted by chaz at 1:56 PM on April 14, 2004

On examining those images, the only bit that seems to give anything away for me is the shadow under the fingers of the kid's left hand. On the "saved" photo, it's darker than the "killed" photo. If I were to copy & paste the word "my" from the "saved" photo, and move it over to the right, near the fingers, that could definitely lighten the shadow, as the lighter color feathering might bleed over.

If, on the other hand, I were to cut the word "my" from the "killed" photo, and move it to the left, there's really no good reason to darken up the shadow area under his fingers.

That's just guesswork (as anyone else's would be), but to my eyes, the "saved" is the original, the "killed" is the remix.
posted by kokogiak at 2:08 PM on April 14, 2004

'farked (a better and more accurate verb than photoshopped imo)?" Are you talking about just this image or all photoshopped images?
posted by Keyser Soze at 2:08 PM on April 14, 2004

I guess ones that are specifically altered to make jokes, wreak havoc, etc. Like Maxim magazine images are photoshopped, internet jokes are farked.
posted by chaz at 2:19 PM on April 14, 2004

Does anyone know if there's a test you can run on images to detect use of the cloning stamp? It would seem that, presuming imagines can be expressed as a long string of numbers, that even a light touch of the cloning tool might create mathematically detectable repeating patterns, or that other Photoshop tools might have similar "signatures" that could be detected in anything by the most careful, pixel-by-pixel PS job. Anyone?
posted by scarabic at 2:30 PM on April 14, 2004

http://www.somethingawful.com/photoshop/ just the tip of the iceberg. I was insulted when you said photoshopped pictures for amusement are called 'farked'
posted by Keyser Soze at 2:49 PM on April 14, 2004

Of course, whichever one of these photos is real (if either one is), there's some duplicity involved. The sign was obviously written by the soldier (referring to him as "Lcpl" seems very insider-military); the kid probably doesn't read or write English, and is just holding up the sign that the soldier asked him to. The sign is supposed to convey some message from the kid, but that's almost certainly not the case.

Unless the original message was in Arabic. Who knows? Maybe it said "when I get bigger, I'm going to off this guy with the big thumb."
posted by adamrice at 2:52 PM on April 14, 2004

For those who want to play detective: saved and killed, both as "original" as I can find. Like someone in the first FPP link said, it's pretty suspect until someone finds a "saved" image as high-res, clear, and uncropped (check the bottom, the "killed" photo shows more) as the "killed" there. Is there one that I'm missing?

I love how everyone and their dog turns into a Photoshop expert and can just tell by glancing at it or has incontrovertible proof blah blah blah. I did the same myself when there was a suspect photo on Snopes a while back. I sent in my "expert opinion" (heh) on how it was clear the photo was a fake. It turned out to be very much real, with more than adequate proof, a few days later. So it goes.
posted by whatnotever at 2:53 PM on April 14, 2004

I would definitely go for "saved" being real. The lettering in the "saved" sign is a lot softer than the "killed" lettering, and much more consistent with the other words, and the "killed" sign has some blocky, blurred areas around some added/moved words.

Also, what chaz said.

On preview, seeing whatnotever's links throws this theory out of whack until someone comes up with a clear, high res of the "saved" poster (how long until somone scales up the saved poster, traces the lettering, and releases a fake original?!)
posted by rafter at 2:56 PM on April 14, 2004

Everyone's gonna be really pissed when they see the actual original photo.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:31 PM on April 14, 2004

Mah horse's name is:

What were you thinking, Boudreaux
posted by magullo at 3:34 PM on April 14, 2004

“This picture and sign directed towards a Muslim family is inexcusable,” he said via e-mail. “Inexcusable because if this lance corporal was given a basic class on Islam, he would have known that remarks such as ‘knocking up’ a Muslim Arab woman is not tolerated and violates the honor of a Muslim woman and her family.

As opposed to the United States where it is perfectly ok to say you killed someone's father and then knocked up their mother.
posted by obfusciatrist at 4:09 PM on April 14, 2004

wait.... when were images not used for propaganda?
posted by Satapher at 4:12 PM on April 14, 2004

minor side note: you're all going to trademark hell.
posted by GeekAnimator at 4:19 PM on April 14, 2004

GeekAnimator, that page is probably meant in jest, but it's too late now. Googling, Photoshopping, Farking are probably already co-opted into the vernacular now.
posted by Gyan at 4:26 PM on April 14, 2004

Also adding this, you will have to be a wittness on the spot knowing if it's all true. The late Hearst would maybe love all this, or not.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:31 PM on April 14, 2004

Ansel Adams was best known for his darkroom techniques and think of Photoshop as a modern darkroom. At the turn of the 20th C there was a great debate if photos should be considered art or simply recording devices. Ansel was one of the first to explore manipulated photography for the sake of giving an artistic impression. He considered the emotional impact to be more important than documenting reality.

The question thus really goes beyond photography to the whole concept of "The Image". If your interested in this subject there is a long but fascinating article by Camille Paglia called "The Magic of Images:
Word and Picture in a Media Age"

posted by stbalbach at 4:36 PM on April 14, 2004

I think it's kind of funny how John Cole's site starts with the whole "this photo proves that this other photo is false" and then even his supporters sort of delve towards the obvious: that no one has a frikin' clue which one, if either, is real.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:19 PM on April 14, 2004

The soldier is from New Orleans. I'm betting on "Killed."
posted by ColdChef at 6:00 PM on April 14, 2004

And who's going to apologise to Bert from Sesame Street after he got photoshopped into pictures of Osama bin Laden which were printed in newspapers the world over?
posted by tapeguy at 6:04 PM on April 14, 2004

To me, the eyeball test is all in the "th" underneath the kid's fingers. It's the only part that's the same in bth phrases, and the "saved" text matches it better. Noticeably better. All this suggests is that the "killed" photo used the "saved" photo for its source, not that the "saved" photo is truy genuine.
posted by scarabic at 6:43 PM on April 14, 2004

That last link is a direct route to The Uncanny Valley.
posted by SPrintF at 7:01 PM on April 14, 2004

I want to ask about this picture. In an earlier thread, someone said it was fake and cited something about adjusting curves in Photoshop as proof (I personally could not replicate the proof by screwing around with the curves). Anybody know anything about this?
posted by Krrrlson at 8:00 PM on April 14, 2004

Krrrlson, in the other thread, someone posted a different picture from a different person of the same sign.
posted by obfusciatrist at 8:33 PM on April 14, 2004

Thanks obfusciatrist -- it was actually the second thread where this was mentioned and I forgot to check back there.
posted by Krrrlson at 8:55 PM on April 14, 2004

i want an owl cat.

to go with my owl bear.
posted by badzen at 9:10 PM on April 14, 2004

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