Digital camera is the end of photo-document

Digital camera is the end of photo-document

Some publications, including newspapers such as Folha de S.Paulo and O Globo, have been using digital cameras - a technology that dispenses the use of film, development, paper copies or slides. The images are captured and stored in a built-in chip in the camera, and a few minutes later they can be seem and edited in the screen of a computer. That is the question: as there is no negative, the original can be altered, and if there is any doubt about the integrity of the photograph, there will be no original - the negative - for confrontation.
A person can have his color altered (i.e. the case of O.J. Simpson with Time magazine), and objects, such as a revolver, can disappear from the scene in the photo, without any vestige. A player can be included in the scene of a goal. Presently, this kind of procedures - cut and/or finishing images, are practiced in the traditional way, but on the copies, while the negative remains unchanged, as an original document of the scene.

Folha uses the machine NC 2000, mounted on a Nikon base. This is specially useful for photographs of facts happening when the newspaper edition is being finished, such as soccer games. The photo is transmitted from the stadium to the computer and a few minutes later is on the page to be printed. It is obvious that such a technological jewel is very important to journalism activities. However, its use demands a minimum of ethical care, i.e. the original scene shall be stored in a database with a "read only" attribute. One of the most important aspects of photographs, before the development of digital cameras, was that nobody could deny the image of a photo - in contrast with written statements or tapes. After the development of machines which can replace the sun with the moon, photographs are not documents anymore, and the readers, who are used to doubt what they read, now can also doubt what they see.

When digital cameras were introduced in the United States, some years ago, they generated a discussion about ethics which resulted in the limitation of their use in journalism. Combined with equipment for graphical corrections, such as the computer Scitex, and manipulated in softwares such as Adobe Photo Shop, the digital photos were used by editors to manipulate images, the same way they do with texts.

The Orange County Register, for example, a newspaper from California which received the Pulitzer award for its work in the Olympic Games of 1984, included in all photographs a blue sky free of pollution. The cover of the book "One day in America’s life", which produced thousands photos, was mounted by using a digital artifice: a cowboy was placed in a mountain with the background showing an amplified moon. And even the impeccable National Geographic did not resist to the temptation of changing the location of one of the Great Pyramids of Gize, just to fit the unmovable monument in the format of the magazine’s cover.




igutenberb@igutenberg.org