Posts Tagged 'Fauxtography'

Has the Guardian published fauxtography?

Sometimes reality is revealed in unintended ways.  Has it been again?  Here’s Rubbisher of the Graun praising the Guardian’s favourite snapper, Murdo Macleod…

Murdo Macleod’s pictures verge on the ridiculous. They seldom fall over the edge, but they often teeter on the brink. Murdo is the gentlest of men, with a soothing, Hebridean lilt that he evidently uses to beguile his sitters to most audacious effect. He charms them into improbable poses or amuses them for long enough to lower their guard. His use of lighting is extraordinary, as is his use of props. You must always expect the unexpected. There is sometimes an element of magic, sometimes a tinge of Dalí.

And as Anthony Watts of the blog Watts Up With That? has discovered, possibly an unhealthy application of Photoshop too.

Did Rubbisher unintentionally hit on something significant when he said Macleod’s pictures verge on the ridiculous, and that there is a Beckett-like sense of absurdity lurking in most of what he photographs?  As focus turns to the Climategate 2.0 emails and people scrutinise the honesty of a number of scientists and journalists, some people are examining everything that has been said and what has been published by the media.

A number of photographs used in climate change and environmental stories seem somewhat odd and have some people asking questions like; have you ever seen black steam coming from a cooling tower?  People should know if image by Murdo Macleod is an example of him falling over the edge from visual representation to gross distortion, in support of a pre-determined editorial line.  The question is this, is it what we are seeing photography or fauxtography?

This image of Eggborough power station (above) by Murdo Macleod appears to have been used exclusively by the Guardian. On WUWT, Anthony Watts shows the output from running the published image through the PSKiller.com application to see whether it has been Photoshopped.

This output leads to a suspicion that the Guardian may have commissioned/used an altered image in order to convey a false impression of power station emissions.

AM has written to Mr Macleod to ask if he will be willing to provide the raw, unaltered image for comparison purposes, and to detail what changes were made from the original to arrive at the image above.  Macleod has also been offered a right of reply that is so often denied to subjects by journalists in the mainstream media.

It would be improper to taint the long standing reputation of a man with such a high profile in his profession if he has done nothing wrong.  This is not about getting one over the Guardian, but a simple search for the truth.  There are questions to be answered here and those answers could have far reaching implications, so we await Macleod’s response with interest.

Update: Murdo Macleod has replied to my email.  The email exchange is reproduced in full below:

Dear Mr Macleod,

I write with regard to this photograph you took for the Guardian newspaper.

http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Books/Pix/pictures/2010/3/10/1268222690808/Eggborough-power-station-001.jpg

There is currently speculation that the photograph has been enhanced or altered in some way to achieve a darkening of the cloud emitted from the cooling towers, as Photoshop quantization tables have been found in the image using http://www.pskiller.com. Before I write about this I wanted to give you the opportunity to respond, as the implications of this could be far reaching.

Would you like to comment about what changes were made to the image? Would you be willing to supply the original raw, unadjusted image for comparison purposes?

Yours sincerely,

xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

——-

Dear xxxxxxx
Perhaps this makes it clearer for you.
Best wishes
Murdo
——-
Dear Murdo,
While you have kindly sent me a photograph to act as an illustration (which has been manipulated – resized only?), it is not the same one that was published and does not explain what changes were made using Photoshop (or similar) to the original image.
People driving past the Eggborough power station say they have only ever seen white steam coming from the cooling towers. This would sound logical as only water vapour comes from cooling towers. However, your images show darkened emissions. So I am trying to get to the bottom of this.
For the sake of clarity, is this as a result of shadow as the sunlight is coming from the left? Or have you used a particular filter, adjusted the contrast, or otherwise altered the image? Or are the emissions that colour when seen from all angles?
Many thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. It is appreciated.
Best wishes,
xxxxxxx
——-
Dear xxxxxxx

As you can see there is a shadow falling across the steam from the left towers. As you may be aware the Guardian has guidelines on photographs and their various aspects. I comply with those. There is a procedure for any readers who have any concerns about any images published. Nearly all photographs are processed in photoshop and a variety of adjustments are made for aesthetic and technical reasons. This photograph will have been adjusted within those conventions and regulations.
Best wishes
Murdo
————————————————————————————
So, Murdo Macleod is clear, the darker area is shadow being cast across the steam.  It is not black smoke.  But as others are saying, his comments are interesting for what he doesn‘t say.
While the Guardian has guidelines concerning photographs that are submitted, it seems they are happy for people to take the impression that dirty, sooty smoke is being emitted from cooling towers, when the reality is the image shows only steam with part of it in shadow.  That is the power of imagery.  Is the Guardian being sly and disingenuous in the use of the photograph?  You decide.

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