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Fuskfotograf (Swe) = “Cheat-photographer”

This word has recently resurfaced in the [Swedish] news. It refers to the Norwegian wildlife photographer Terje Hellesø who, apparently could not resist to photoshop* in a lynx here and there in his images to make them more enticing. This has caused an outcry, and Hellesø has had to leave the Photographer’s Association. (The fuskfotograf himself is devastated and regretful, saying he got caught in the race of career climbing and his goal to become independently wealthy).

The word fuskfotograf first appeared in the Swedish media in 2006, at the time of the controversy around images taken by the Reuters photographer Adnan Hajj of the devastation in Beirut caused by the war. The Libanese photographer was discovered to have had manipulated the images by adding extra smoke and ruined buildings, using the clone tool. This easy trick to sharpen the news story agenda and angle, repeated itself over and over, for example in an 2008 Agence France-Presse image of an Iranian missile test launch, showing one missile too many (and again, cloned smoke).

This new compound word implies its antonym; that photograph or photographer means something inherently honest or true. The question is, is it valid in 2011 to be chocked over the fact that a photograph is not the same thing as “the truth”? As Susan Sontag stated in 1977 – before digital photography – that a photograph is “as much an interpretation of the world as paintings and drawings are”. And, “Photography implies that we know about the world if we accept it as the camera records it. But this is the opposite of understanding, which starts from not accepting the world as it looks.[...] Strictly speaking, one never understands anything from a photograph.[...] Nevertheless, the camera’s rendering of reality must always hide more than it discloses”. (On Photography)

The answer seems to be that at least when it comes to war and wildlife, photography is still hanging on to its aura of absolute truth, even it if it’s by a thin thread. Maybe it’s time to cut the cord, just let go, and accept the truth as it is, i.e. manipulated more often than not.


* to photoshop; att photoshoppa (Swe)
to manipulate an image with a computer application (such as Adobe Photoshop).

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