Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Su Anderson

Not everything is as it seems...

Ever wondered the extent to which our history has been photoshopped? How big the element of Spin?  Photo journalist Su Anderson has been opening my eyes to the impacts and ethics of photo manipulation, its potential to distort the truth and the rules that photo journalists live by.

I met Su on Twitter, intrigued by an article she had posted on the ethics of image manipulation in the press and how history as depicted to us (both in words and pictures) is not always the immutable truth we believe it to be. “Growing up in the US I was taught that Word War II began in 1942.  It was only when I moved to the UK in 2009 that I realised this was just a national point of view!”  I made contact with her IRL to find out more. In conversation I discovered this is a subject very close to her heart, ever since studying it at Syracuse University as part of her degree in photojournalism and cultural anthropology.  When she moved to the UK her first job was as a Forensic and PR Photographer for the Scottish Police Services Authority, where she ran the picture desk for the entire police force, providing a forensic photography service as well as press photos for the force.  She, more than most, knows the co-ordinates of that line between truth and presentation of facts.

“Photo manipulation is clearly dangerous because of its potential to mislead.  For example to put a political leader in a better light, or to remove someone from a group shot when allegiances change.  Who could forget the cringe-worthy episode of ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, found out in 2010 for doctoring a photo to present himself at the front of the red carpet procession of world leaders at the Middle East Peace Talks.  In truth he was out of favour and had been relegated to the back.  The photoshopping was so poor though, his ruse was quickly rumbled.  And of course, being exposed by a blogger (Egyptian Wael Khalil) meant the reaction in cyberspace was vivid.  Spoof versions of the photo manipulation went viral: Mubarak winning the World Cup; breaking the 100 meters World Record; and landing on the moon; to mention just a few.”

But the doctoring of images isn’t just a problem of the digital age.  It has a long case history as Su’s article demonstrates.  “History is rife with photo manipulation long before Photoshop existed,” she warns me. “In fact one of the most famous full-body images of Abraham Lincoln [from the Library of Congress, picture above] is not at all what it seems: Lincoln’s head, taken from a seated portrait, was placed onto the body of 7th US Vice President John C Calhoun. And this was years before Oprah’s head was placed on Ann-Margaret’s body!

For more choice examples of historical photo manipulation you can read Su’s full article here. For my part, I’m not sure I’ll ever look at a history book the same way again…


Ironic attending BFI screening of retro equal pay flick Made in Dagenham, just as new statistics reveal gender pay gap widening. 

The film was being shown at the South Bank to mark the imminent opening of the stage musical (9 October, at London's Adelphi Theatre) starring some time Bond girl Gemma Arterton, who was there in person to introduce the film.  

You tend to think of unequal pay as a thing of the past.  Well I do, at least.  Call me naïve but I thought the 1970 Act had dealt with the issue - certainly by now. And the very retro feel of the 1960s-set film / stage production only encourages that view. But a recent Fawcett Society study reveals that changing employment patterns today resulting from the recession are "fuelling a widening inequality gap".  

Now that's definitely something to be making a song and dance about.

Honoured to be invited to Hardwicke Chambers' first ping pong event of the new season.  The set is planning a series over Autumn and Winter, culminating in a grand final at Holborn's famous Bounce next year.  Love the pic of the evening posted by fellow guest Legal Cheek (see right).
Served up with pizza and beer, this is a very contemporary take on corporate entertainment. You can count on Hardwicke to do things differently.  What a breath of fresh air!

A fun metaphor for the daily ping pong of advocacy in the courts?

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