A tale of two photographs

Not long ago, Pew Research reported that trust in the media had dropped to its lowest levels in the 24 years that Pew has surveyed on the question.  One media photographer says he can explain why.  Pulitzer Prize winner David Hume Kennerly has been taking photos for decades, but says Newsweek shocked him with their use of a picture he took of Dick Cheney and his family preparing dinner.  Kennerly tells what happened next:

Featured inside the magazine was a full-page, stand-alone picture of former Vice President Dick Cheney, knife in hand, leaning over a bloody carving board. Newsweek used it to illustrate a quote that he made about C.I.A. interrogators. By linking that photo with Mr. Cheney’s comment and giving it such prominence, they implied something sinister, macabre, or even evil was going on there.

I took that photograph at his daughter Liz’s home during a two-day assignment, and was shocked by its usage. The meat on the cutting board wasn’t the only thing butchered. In fact, Newsweek chose to crop out two-thirds of the original photograph, which showed Mrs. Cheney, both of their daughters, and one of their grandchildren, who were also in the kitchen, getting ready for a simple family dinner.

However, Newsweek’s objective in running the cropped version was to illustrate its editorial point of view, which could only have been done by shifting the content of the image so that readers just saw what the editors wanted them to see. This radical alteration is photo fakery. Newsweek’s choice to run my picture as a political cartoon not only embarrassed and humiliated me and ridiculed the subject of the picture, but it ultimately denigrated my profession.

The New York Times provided an opportunity for Newsweek to respond.  VP Frank De Maria said that cropping has been an “accepted practice” in photography since its invention.  He makes no apology for using the image to make a political point:

Is it a picture of the former vice president cutting meat? Yes, it is. Has it been altered? No. Did we use the image to make an editorial point — in this case, about the former vice president’s red-blooded, steak-eating, full-throated defense of his views and values? Yes, we did.

Here’s the original image:

And here’s what Newsweek ran to illustrate their story on CIA interrogation:

We like to find goofy pictures of politicians to make a point, too.  It’s fun and it’s useful — for a political blog with a point of view. Is that what Newsweek thinks of itself?  It’s certainly what many of us think of Newsweek, and this doesn’t exactly refute that charge. Or does it make a difference that it was used in The Take, a feature that is expressly opinion?

What do you think?  Take the poll:

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