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The perspective of Cape Town professional photographers on issues of integrity in the documentary photograph
Deacon, Henry Christopher
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This study investigates the perspective of Capetonian professional photographers on issues of integrity, regarding the impact of digital imaging technology. Key objectives are to establish how the concept of photographic integrity manifests itself throughout the history of the documentary genre, prior and subsequent to the introduction of digital imaging technology; to ascertain the extent to which the Capetonian professional photographer uses digital imaging technology compared to film technology; to discover how Capetonian professional photographers perceive various concepts related to integrity in a documentary photograph; to identify what Capetonian professional photographers regard as acceptable digital editing to the photojournalistic documentary photograph; to ascertain whether Capetonian professional photographers believe that digital imaging technology impacted on the integrity of the documentary photograph; and finally, to discern whether Capetonian professional photographers who have practiced professional photojournalism see the need for a national regulating body, which clearly makes known what acceptable picture taking (in terms of content, e.g. staging of a photograph) and digital editing entails, for the South African photojournalist. The rationale for this study is that we exist in an era where we are faced with a digital revolution which transforms perceptions of integrity and it is essential to ascertain how technology influences the perceptions of the very professionals who produce documentary photography images. The literature review evolves a context for this study. This empirical study’s data collection and analyses has a mixed-method design. The survey’s instrument of data collection is a questionnaire, which captured quantitative data and with half of one question captures qualitative data. I analysed quantitative data with the help of SPSS and I analysed qualitative data much akin to a case study. The statistical test used to analyse quantitative data is a chi-square test and there are 66 participants in the study. I found that a breach of integrity, for instance manipulation, was always possible in the era prior to the introduction of digital imaging technology. Now it is only done faster, more thorough and more people have access to editing technology. Many who lack moral fiber are tempted now, more than ever, to illicitly manipulate. Capetonian professional photographer’s experience in digital image creation and editing technology outweighs the equivalent in the film medium. Digital camera usage takes precedence over film cameras. An example of a perception of a concept related to integrity in documentary photography is the sub-group which has practiced professional photojournalism insisted (73.5% of them strongly agreed) that it is possible to be creative and truthful at the same time in documentary photography. With regard to what acceptable editing entails, for cropping respondents favoured slight cropping; for dodging and burning in respondents favoured very light dodging and burning in; for pasting in respondents favoured no pasting in is acceptable; and for removing of objects respondents favoured no removing of objects. The Capetonian professional photographer believes that digital imaging technology has impacted on the integrity of the documentary photograph. For instance, the study has measured and proved that a majority of Capetonian professional photographers believe that a documentary essay taken in film and processed in the traditional darkroom feels more consistently trustworthy than its digital equivalent. This study has shown that there is a need for a body that clearly makes known what acceptable picture taking and digital editing entails for the professional photojournalistic photographer in South Africa.