chapter  14
11 Pages

The digitally enhanced audience: new attitudes to factual footage

ByJOHN ELLIS

The excessive ‘manipulation’ of photographs was a pervasive fear of the closing years of the twentieth century. The arrival of digital photography seemed to threaten the evidential status of photography in the eyes of both popular and academic commentators (see Brand et al. 1985). Cases of image manipulation were widely debated, citing both the routine practice of ‘retouching’, and some flagrant examples of falsified photographic evidence. MIT’s William J. Mitchell sounded this alarm in 1994:

The growing circulation of the new graphic currency that digital imaging technology mints is relentlessly destabilizing the old photographic orthodoxy, denaturing the established rules of graphic communication, and disrupting the familiar practices of image production and exchange. This condition demands, with increasing urgency, a fundamental critical reappraisal of the uses to which we put graphic artifacts, the values we therefore assign to them, and the ethical principles that guide our transactions with them.