Thursday 3 September 2015

Forensics - The Normalizing of Image Doctoring

Back in 2003 I wrote a short piece for Birdwatch Magazine outlining how I had doctored an image in Photoshop.  I had numerous digiscoped images of a Pallas's Leaf Warbler (Phylloscopus proregulus) and I wanted to create one image depicting why it is given the charming name 'seven-striped sprite'.  The purpose of the exercise was two-fold.  Firstly I wanted to demonstrate Photoshop as an artistic tool for those who might not already be aware of it's power and secondly I wanted to highlight the genuine risk posed by forgery.  

The term Photoshop is already synonymous with image manipulation and there can't be too many people unaware of the term and of the risks.  The media and academia have become increasingly sensitive to the issue of forgery and a whole industry has grown up to identify and stop falsified images.  But at the same time the media has always admitted that images of models undergo considerable touching up.  Some high profile and respected journals openly now admit that images on their front covers are doctored for artistic purposes.  At what point do we begin to doubt the veracity of all images in print and, by extension the internet?

Thus far there haven't been too many high profile cases involving image manipulation in birding and ornithology.  But the decision of Birdlife South Africa this week to doctor an image of a Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotos) and hoax the discovery of a new species, the 'Tuluver' for a campaign may have crossed the proverbial Rubicon.  I don't normally comment on current affairs in this blog but I thought this deserved a mention.

In future posts I hope to gather together information on some of the freely available online resources for sniffing out potentially forged images but this isn't a core objective of the blog.

Relevant links

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