Democratisation of Photography and Rise of Fake News


The democratisation of photography has given rise to ‘fake news’, photo manipulation, and a rampant circulation of images online without consent. How do we engage with this situation, both as photographers and consumers?

Answer by: Prashant Nakwe, Photo Editor, The Hindu

Lets say this… Democratisation or that everyone is a photographer cannot stop the constant flow of images on social media platforms. The recent data by CIPA, an international industry association engaged in the development, production or sale of imaging related devices, including digital cameras, shows that the sale of smartphone cameras exceed the combined sale of cameras, in all formats, worldwide.

Apart from the benefits of photography becoming more and more accessible, the rise of fake news, and manipulating content, is a matter of genuine concern for professional photographers, whose bread and butter solely depends on this art form.

In my opinion, to stand out from the swarm of fake news and photo manipulation menace, photographers must remain transparent about their ethics while editing images, their interaction with subjects, or staging the subjects they photograph. They must remain transparent about their expertise, to win back the confidence of the people. While working on meaningful visual stories, projects or solo images, photographers must provide basic information and captions that can connect and engage the viewer to the image. This is particularly important because globally, millions of images are shared per minute, across all social media platforms. I feel that being truthful to the subject, and sharing constant factual information, will help photographers in creating their own follower base, gradually.

To counter fake news and photo manipulation, photographers can attract readers by presenting their projects and photobooks, in the form of augmented reality, where they embed a link to the video, so that it can be seen from the app downloaded on the mobile/tab. Viewers can watch video clips and listen to audio. Another take is virtual reality, where photographers can use images to offer their viewers a reality check. Although AR and VR technology is a far-fetched idea in India, a few photographers in Europe are already using it.

Another way to deal with this menace is to implement Fred Ritchin’s, Dean Emeritus of ICP, idea of an open source code for photographers—called the Four Corner Project—which is supported by WPP and ICP. Photographers can add factual text into the four corners of the image, which viewers can read, while hovering the mouse over any corner of the picture, to know about the caption and copyright. This helps to establish authorship of the creator.

This article originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of Better Photography.