"It is important that we show the diversity of the University of Idaho."
September 30, 2000 5:45 PM   Subscribe

"It is important that we show the diversity of the University of Idaho." And we'll do whatever it takes to show it. [more inside]
posted by Steven Den Beste (16 comments total)
Which brings up the whole question of the value and validity of photos. There was a time when in court cases, a photograph could basically be trusted.

No longer. I've seen pictures of lower Manhattan over the water where all the buildings had been moved around. It looked absolutely genuine. And now this. So if you're being tried for a crime, and a significant part of the evidence against you is photographic, how do you prove to a jury that it wasn't fabricated? Or how does the state prove that it's genuine? Can photographs be trusted in court at all any more? Or anywhere else?
posted by Steven Den Beste at 5:50 PM on September 30, 2000

This has been a big deal in journalism for the last 2 decades and although I'm not suprised that this is the second such issue of photo modification at a public University in recent weeks, I must say that I thought this would become an issue in corporate public relations first.

Then again, I came from a University where diversity was everywhere. I don't understand why publications doesn't just walk around campus for a week or so and look for diverity-centric picture opportunities. Enrollment at these schools aren't THAT bad, are they?
posted by bkdelong at 5:59 PM on September 30, 2000

Surely if they wanted that they could have just wandered about campus for half an hour to find an ethnically diverse - Captain Planetish - photo opportunity, right?

Are negatives still safe, or can people fake those too?

posted by holloway at 6:08 PM on September 30, 2000

It's common knowledge that minority students are particularly difficult to photograph in their natural milieu. Costly, complicated infrared equipment is required, for starters ... to say nothing of extremely rare magic beans.
posted by highindustrial at 6:17 PM on September 30, 2000

holloway: "Are negatives still safe, or can people fake those too?"

I believe the actual negatives are safe, yes however most places scan the negatives in and pull them into graphics editing programs for modification. Most pictures being taken today are done so with a digital camera. Those still using REAL cameras are seasoned photojournalists, college/high school students borrowing a camera, and artists.

Perhaps this continued decrying of photo modification will bring about use of watermark origination authentication....digital cameras that authenticate photos with an encrypted watermark that will get modified if the graphic is altered. Or graphics editing programs that will leave a footprint in an altered graphic. (Although technically Adobe Photoshop already does that).
posted by bkdelong at 6:19 PM on September 30, 2000

Negatives are pretty safe, yes, but there's no reason you can't scan in a bunch of originals, manipulate them, then use a film printer to spit out a brand new negative containing your composite image. You'd lose resolution, and that could probably be spotted, but it'd technically meet your criteria. :-)

posted by Mars Saxman at 6:32 PM on September 30, 2000

I really don't think this a big deal. Maybe its just me?
posted by howa2396 at 7:03 PM on September 30, 2000

continuing with the "maybe it's just me?" discussion, did we already post something similar?
posted by pnevares at 7:13 PM on September 30, 2000

Odd: the University of Wisconsin 'fessed up to doing the same thing a few weeks ago. The cover of a brochure was insufficiently diverse, so they took a photo of a Black student, reversed the head and stuck him in the stands at a football game.

University officials later admitted that this was "inappropriate," which is that weasily word bureaucrats use when they cannot bear to say "wrong."
posted by lileks at 7:36 PM on September 30, 2000

I haven't seen digital watermarks even stand up to "increase size 10%" then "decrease size 10%".

The new Jpeg2000 standard has some copyright metadata. And I give an MCSE five minutes to rip that out.
posted by holloway at 7:45 PM on September 30, 2000

Call me silly, but I thought the diversity at University of Idaho was along the lines of:"We listen to bith types of music, Country AND Western". Then again, I'm a Wolvie berserker, and may just be too used to talking trash.
posted by tj at 8:11 PM on September 30, 2000

Legally, as I'm surprised Mikewas hasn't jumped in already to point out, none of this is pertinent to the presentation of photographic evidence in court.

Photographs have *always*, so far as I'm aware, been introduced into evidence based on the testimony of the photographer that, yes, I was at that location at thatdate and time, and that photograph accurately represents what I saw... and, in particularly important cases, chain of evidence is maintained through the developing and printing that nothing was modified.

"Justice" rests, as it always has, on the testimony of humans in a courtroom, before a jury of your peers. If a lawyer tried to introduce a photograph without testimony to back it up, discovery, and then the judge, wouldn't let him.

If he sprang it, he'd be tempting a mistrial.

The days of Della Street are long dead.
posted by baylink at 9:25 PM on September 30, 2000

Oh, I have no doubt that a photographer has to testify to make a photograph legal evidence.

I also know that more than a hundred people in LA are being released from jail right now because the cops fabricated the evidence which put them behind bars -- and then lied in court about it.

What protects me against a photographer who modifies a photo and then perjures himself? "Oh, I was there alright, and that's what I saw, alright..."

posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:52 PM on September 30, 2000

This is especially ironic, since if they had merely called in a group of models, not even necessarily students, and dressed them all in school colors, and THEN taken a photograph, nobody would have blinked. That sort of subterfuge happens all the time.

Or consider a photo collage, of the old cut-and-paste kind, where a disproportionate number of faces are minorities. No, that would be too easy -- we have to put faces on other people's bodies, so we can get a Photoshop job next year. Ahem.
posted by dhartung at 2:07 AM on October 1, 2000

Does this mean that If I decided to go to U of I they'll cut off my head and stick it on a whiteboys body?
posted by Fidel at 3:11 AM on October 1, 2000

Note that I didn't comment, quite on purpose, on the potential veracity of the testifier (there's a cooler word for that, but I can't remember it :-).
posted by baylink at 6:53 AM on October 2, 2000

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