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|| News Item: Posted 2003-09-29

Changing the Face of Photojournalism
By Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

A few days ago, I was thumbing through the second edition of Ken Kobre's "Photojournalism, The Professional Approach" and couldn't help but notice the number of photos that had been struck by the so-called "Hand of God."

Some of these were so heavily dodged to bring out faces and details that it looked as if someone had taken an eraser the photo and started grinding away at sections of the print. With this floating, cloudy mass, it was no question that some alteration had been done.

Aside from looking really bad, I wondered if this an appropriate practice to showcase in a book used predominately by journalism students? What sort of message does that send?

With the advancement of computer technology and powerful photo programs, the art of making the photo more appealing has become so much easier. No more long hours in the darkroom with those little sticks with goofy shapes taped to the ends.

Unfortunately, This technology has led to a barrage of unethical manipulation in the field of photojournalism. Move the soldier just a little to the left, don't like the newspaper's logo from across town in your front page photo, presto - chango, no more. How did we go from big halos around people's faces to just getting rid of stuff we don't like?

I personally am not that resourceful with Photoshop and wouldn't even know where to begin to do some of these things. A big alteration for me is using the rubber stamp to get rid of those spots of dust that accumulate on my CCD. I've tried to use the dodge and burn tools and those annoying little marching ants, but I can't make it work. I just end up with some baseball player that looks like he had the skin on his face bleached while his hands remain "normal" looking. I guess I would.

For me, I have just always accepted the photos that I end up with at the end of the day. Sometimes I luck out with a great photo, nice light, great background and other times I'll have a nice moment that is ruined by some pole coming out of my subject's head. Sometimes it's Just luck of the draw.

I love my job for the challenges of making a nice image with my camera, not the computer. This world we live in isn't always perfect and there is always tomorrow to try and get that great prize winning photo. Being competitive is a part of this job, but I don't feel that there is any contest or agency/newspaper rivalry worth blowing my career over by trying to deceive the public.

I thought that I would give one more try to use some of these popular techniques to spruce up one of my photos, just to see how long it takes to make a decent picture into a super prize winner.

I got out a photo of Barry Bonds swinging the bat at a day game. As usual, there was no bat-on-ball so that was the very first thing I added. That wasn't too hard. The next thing I wanted to do was to make the background fade to black, since it was a day game and it would really make him "pop" out. I clicked on that little paintbrush thingy and started to gradually shade it in, nice fade to black, was starting to look stunning. Then, the circular paintbrush started to blink, now it wouldn't move...the computer crashed. I guess "hand of God" was a little tired.

(Justin Sullivan is a staff photographer with Getty Images, based in the Bay Area. This is his first contribution to the Sports Shooter Newsletter.)

Related Links:
Justin Sullivan's member page

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