The ethics of editing: Clone stamping Cartier-Bresson’s photographs

Updated on August 20, 2019 in Photography
5 on September 15, 2017

I was reading “Henri Cartier-Bresson The Modern Century” yesterday and I came across the relatively well known photograph of a woman standing in front of an advertisement, I looked for the freckles that were on her neck and I realized that they weren’t there. I was shocked because I swore that this was a part of the image and I immediately went to grab the other book that I own that has this photo, “Looking At Photographs” Both books were published by the MOMA of New York. 

How do you feel about this? I remember when I attended Street Foto SF during my workshop with Vinheet Vohra the topic of Photoshoping street photos came up and it seemed to me that everyone was in agreement that it felt like cheating. Part of the fun of street photography relies on its adherence to the fact of what was going on in front of you. I’ve always felt as though the heavy editing that you see in fashion magazines is rather unethical but that’s just my opinion. That being said this is a relatively minor clone stamp but I always enjoyed seeing the freckles on her neck because if you look closely they almost resemble the wave pattern that’s on the wall. I wonder if this kind of editing would have been allowed if the book was published while Cartier-Bresson was alive. He was first and foremost an artist and didn’t give much of a damn about journalism this kind of thing can get journalists black listed.

http://time.com/4766312/souvid-datta/

https://petapixel.com/2016/05/26/photoshopped-photos-emerge-steve-mccurry-scandal/

I was originally looking for an image on what I believe to be the Irag war (maybe it was an different war, I remember the photo was taken in a desert) where a soldier is seen running and the journalist clone stamps a bush out of the background but I couldn’t remember the person/place/photo so these were the best examples I could find. This one photograph got the guy black listed and couldn’t find work.

Do any of you Photoshop your street photographs? I did it once around the time when I first started and even ended up selling a print of the photo, looking back now I don’t really enjoy the image and I don’t enjoy the fact that I used Photoshop on it. I enjoy  seeing a street photograph and feeling as though you’re seeing something that’s “true”.

 
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0 on September 15, 2017

Is a world made of blacks, whites, and shades of gray what’s “going on in front of you” when you shoot street photography? If not, I hope all your photos are in color. 🙂

We “edit” the world the second we try to capture it with a camera. No sense pretending we can be “pure” about photography. If Photoshop helps you make a beautiful image, go for it!

Having said that, journalism is different than art, so it’s held to different standards. But as artists we’re free—enjoy that freedom.

There are valid points on the other side of this argument, but this is my opinion. On a certain level, there is nothing “true” about a photograph.

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0 on September 15, 2017

I believe that HCB entrusted much of his darkroom editing to his assistants.  There is obvious dodging and burning in some of his photographs.  In general, I don’t see a problem with this outside of photojournalism.  However I would not remove permanent facial features such as freckles or birthmarks and I doubt HCB would have liked to see his work being digitally altered in this way without his approval, if that is in fact what is happening here.

It’s difficult to define where the limits should be drawn though.  Photographs can “lie” simply by selecting what to point the camera at, and what to avoid.  Global edits such as contrast and brightness can be used to draw attention towards or away from certain elements of a photograph.  Selective edits such as clone stamp / healing brush can be used to remove annoyances such as sensor dust or flies but can also be used to remove people altogether.  Selective edits such as (post processing) grad filters can be used to show detail in the sky while preserving detail in the foreground shadows, which can arguably make the photograph more true to life.

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0 on September 15, 2017

So, just dont put that picture in the “street photography” box and put it into the “art photography” or the box you fell ok with… its like getting mad with movies when you acknowledge that they are not true. 

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0 on September 17, 2017

Reality is hard to accept sometimes, you don’t want to believe that great photographers of the past or famous institutions like moma of NY  alter and edit in photoshop the images, but they do, i am not saying they all did, but some cropped or dodged and burned etc. 
Don’t know why they would clean the photo you are referring to because it’s really it’s a bad photo, no matter who took it.
And they are not freckles they’re warts.

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0 on August 20, 2019

Sometimes it makes to consideration. Here I always follow to add a realistic drop shadow in Photoshop.

 

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