Popular Photography - letter published

Back in December I read the contest issue of Popular Photography & Imaging and was very displeased to see that their first place winner in the Nature category was of an image that was a compilation of multiple images on multiple days with a lot of editing done on the computer. I was upset enough that I sent them the following letter:

That the judges of the annual photography contest chose Mehmet Ozgur’s image as the first place winner for the Nature Photography section is simply insulting to the readers and to every nature photographer who has ever made an image. Certainly the image is interesting and well done, but as the caption clearly states, it is not a natural image. It is a compilation of 15 different images. The category of nature implies that the viewer could go the same place and see the same thing – as the image reports on what was there in the real world.

I am a professional photojournalist and all around us are examples of the credibility of photographs as truth being destroyed by over-zealous photoshop junkies that feel the need to improve on or outright create reality to suit them. Your contest had a “Creative” category that Ozgur’s image would have been properly suited for. Instead we have to see editors, designers and anybody else that has access to a camera and computer software present images based solely on impact, and not on credibility and reality.

More and more often when a photographer captures a remarkable image the people that view it question the reality and the credibility of it. The last thing in the world the photography industry needs is publications letting created images be judged alongside true images and leading the readers to accept that altering images is the ethical thing to do.

A short while later I received a reply that the editors wanted to publish my letter, but since the contest was already in the past they wanted to edit it to make it more about Photoshop misuse. They also requested that I send them a photo to illustrate my point about real images being questioned. In response I sent them my image of the goats on top of the ridge during the balloon rally. So now we get to today,and the new issue of Popular Photography arrives in my mailbox and my letter and photo are displayed pretty prominently on the letters page - with the text in bold and a larger font than anything else on the page. Not exactly the best way to get published in a national magazine, but it is published and I am getting paid for the image use.

I could not find the letters page on their web site, but they do have a large portion of their magazine on-line at Popular Photography & Imaging

Here is the edited version of the letter:

As a professional photojournalist, I find that the credibility of photographs as truth is being destroyed by overzealous Photoshop junkies who feel the need to "improve on" or create their own reality. Anybody with a camera and computer software can present images based solely on impact, instead of reality. More and more often when a photographer captures a remarkable image people question the credibility of it.

For instance, many ask me if I added the balloons to this shot. I didn't. This is exactly what my camera captured at the Red Rock Balloon Rally Near Gallup, New Mexic, this past December. As far as I am concerned, altering an image is not an ethical thing to do.
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