Some Final Words to the Skeptical

"If you're still not convinced . . . ."

For those who aren't fully persuaded that FoundView is necessary even after they've read everything on this web site, we recommend asking two basic questions:

1) Should viewers of realistic-looking photographs be informed about which photographs have undergone manipulations of content and which have not?

Imagine if a photographer of the bombed Federal building in Oklahoma City had seamlessly cut-and-pasted into his photos convincing images of what appeared to be likely suspects running from the bomb scene, privately justifying the manipulation to himself as "art" but not disclosing the manipulation to viewers of the photographs. Would viewers want to be made aware of this manipulation? If you don't feel that any disclosure will ever be necessary for these sorts of manipulations, then, no, FoundView will not be convincing to you. However, if you see cause for concern in the increasing number of undisclosed manipulations passed off as single-click photographs, then ask:

2) Where should the line be drawn?

Imagine that it's a decade hence—the year 2010—and you have to write up the rules for a nationwide photo contest. Unfortunately, you can't simply divide entries into either "film-based" or "digital" the way you could back in 1997: most serious photographers who formerly used 35mm and roll film are now using digital cameras, tweaking their images on computers, and outputting them with super-high-resolution digital printers. Thus, the categories that your contest used back in the late 1990s—Nature, People, Humor, and Computer Enhanced (Digital)—are now useless, because almost all of the entries are now digitally produced. So, assuming that both kinds of entries look equally realistic, how do you draw the line between images that simply underwent minor color correction and those (like the Oklahoma City example in #1 above) in which various elements were cut and pasted into the image? What should the rules be? (Note: if you're tempted to use the phrase "manipulation of minor elements" please see C-1; if you think a distinction can be drawn between "art photographs" and "documentary photographs" please see D-2; if you think viewers only care about photographs' trustworthiness when it comes to "hard news pictures," please see E-8.)

FoundView, of course, was designed with this kind of use in mind (those who actually do have to write up contest rules should visit FoundView for Publications, Contests, and Exhibits). FoundView lends itself well to such applications because it deals only with the presentation of images, putting no limits whatsoever on artistic expression.

Obviously anyone who hopes to pass off synthesized images as authentic photographs will find any disclosure system—including FoundView—threatening. But there aren't many people willing to answer "No" to #1 above; since FoundView was born in early 1997, only a few photographers have written to us arguing that "there should be no manipulation disclosure standard at all, ever." To those who answer "Yes" to #1 above, our response is always the same: "Don't dismiss FoundView unless you can propose a better alternative." No one has yet seriously suggested a better place to draw the line.

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Photography is at a crossroad.
The fate of its trustworthiness is in the hands of its practitioners.
Its integrity and unique position among the arts should not be discarded lightly.