Fred Ritchin – In Our Own Image

For my third and final week of Academic reading, I had to read a chapter (The Pixellated Pressin a book by Fred Ritchin entitled In Our Own Image. This weeks read was actually the easiest read that I have had so far as Fred Ritchin showed his personal opinions through the use of sarcasm and many different examples. Below I have shown the quotes that I thought highlighted the main over-arching theme throughout this section, along with any names or definitions that I was unfamiliar with:

  • 1999
  • Easy to read
  • Sarcastic manor
  • Personal
  • Examples
  • Assumes the reader understands


  • “… What I had been looking at was not a photograph, but an image made by Newsweek using separate photographs of each man. The actors where not together when the image was made.” – Page 7-11, Line 31 onwards
  • There is also, although few people seem to read them, only a single picture credit” – Page 11, Line 4
  • Picture Credit – a note acknowledging the source of a published photograph
  • Certainly subjects have been told to smile, photographs have been staged, and other such manipulations have occurred, but now the viewer must question the photograph at the basic physical level of fact” – Page 11, Line 6
  • In this instance, I felt not only misled, but extraordinarily shaken, as if while intently observing the world it had somehow still managed to significantly change without my noticing” – Page 11, Line 8
  • Karen Mullarkey
  • … One cannot assume that the photograph is performing its traditional descriptive function, that what one sees is what is there.” – Page 11, Line 17
  • Why not then say so and let the reader interpret the image on the basis of its not being a photograph but an image formulated long distance? Or, more disquieting still, has it been assumed that people do not read photographs, do not need to know how to interpret them?” – Page 11, Line 28
  • Hippolyte Bayard – 1840, staged his “Self-Portrait as Drowned Man”
  • Senator Joseph McCarthy – 1950s
  • “… Computer retouching has never been as efficacious or invisible an operation as it is now.” – Page 11-12, Line 40
  • Since in this process photographs are routinely transformed into digital form, and can as a result be easily modified, editors face an ever-greater temptation to retouch them.” – Page 12, Line 19


Of course, the use of such technology is not as immediately problematic in advertising or the arts as it is in journalism. If a smiling model in a liquor advertisement is given whiter teeth and a sexy companion, or if a photograph hanging in a museum features a green moon and a blue sun, there are not the same issues of accuracy and veracity that such retouching raises in journalism or other documentary uses of the photograph.” – Page 12, Line 30

My Point:

  • Over-arching theme – photo-manipulation within the media
  • Depending on what the photograph is being used for, the more or less a photograph can be manipulated and still accepted
  • See quote above


  • Guenther Cartwright (professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology) – “One person’s enhancement is another person’s alteration.” – Page 15, Line 3
  • 1982 – National Geographic cover of the pyramids of Giza – “In this case, a horizontal photograph was made into a vertical image suitable for the cover by electronically moving one pyramid closer to the other.” – Page 15, Line 7
  • Robert E. Gilka – National Geographic’s director of photography (at the time)
  • Wilbur E. Garrett – National Geographic’s director (at the time)
  • The National Geographic’s example shows that a photograph is not necessarily time specific, but a kind of photographic time travel is now possible.” – Page 15, Line 16
  • The ‘decisive moment’, the popular Henri Cartier-Bresson approach to photography in which a scene is stopped and depicted at a certain point of high visual drama, is now possible to achieve at any time.” – Page 15, Line 18
  • The books editors, who have defended the tampering as legitimate in a commercial world, did not attempt to keep their manipulation a secret: they then published the corresponding horizontal photograph (or at least a horizontal photograph, since one feels increasingly unable to assert that an image has emerged unaltered) on the cover of the A Day in the Life of America calendar and the vertical image on the calendars back cover.” – Page 18, Line 5
  • Robert F. Brandt – managing editor of Newsday – “We’re a lot freer with feature-selection design presentation than with news presentation. A double-truck spread in the food section in which clams and oysters are moved about for effect is not going to create a major ethics debate at our paper. We’re a lot less free with the live news photo on the news-section cover.” – Page 18, Line 20
  • Hal Buell – Assistant General Manager of Newsphotos at the Associated Press



  • For example, at one California newspaper a staff member automatically corrected what was perceived to be an error: red dye in a swimming pool. The resulting change of colour to blue unfortunately contradicted the point of the photograph, which was that someone had been putting red dye into the water.” – Page 19, Line 12
  • Arnold Drapkin – former picture editor at Time magazine – “When you get very close to something, you sometimes can’t see what you’re really doing.” – Page 21-22, Line 40
    • The people involved in editing the image and creating the composite obviously knew that they were using two images, and therefore thought it was obvious to the viewer, so forgot to mention that it was actually a photographic illustration – this resulted in many complaints


  • Thomas Kennedy – director of photography of the National Geographic
  • Peter Howe – Director of photography at Life magazine – “If you’ve got a photographer who is sending you a series of electronic impulses which as photo editor you bring up on the screen of your electronic workstation, and it is showing a massacre in Burma – there is absolutely no way you know whether that massacre took place.” – Page 22, Line 24
  • Ben Blank – Art Director of ABC-TV News – “There’s no real concern about putting figures where they aren’t as long as you don’t alter the news instead.” – Page 23, Line 11
  • A minor manipulation? In any case, the photographer was not consulted.” – Page 23, Line 39



  • I felt like a deity, able at will to move massive structures, or at least their representations.”