There’s been no shortage of opinions on the recent discovery of alterations made to images taken by highly esteemed photographer Steve McCurry.
Now, the photographer himself has responded to allegations he has used post-processing to not only enhance his image, but substantially alter them.
The photographer’s alleged transgressions have been scrutinised by many, including his peers, bloggers, industry commentators, even the National Geographic has given a formal statement.
If you’ve yet to hear about the saga, here’s a quick catch up:
A photo taken by McCurry in Cuba and displayed at an exhibition in Italy was, upon close inspection, was found by photographer Paolo Viglione in late April 2016 to have been digitally altered.
McCurry told Italian media that this alteration was “a change that I would have never authorised…The lab technician who made the mistake does not work with me anymore.”
Close scrutiny of McCurry’s other images turned up more instances of alterations during May 2016.
In response, McCurry made a statement to PetaPixel claiming that he no longer considers himself a photojournalist, writing: “Today I would define my work as visual storytelling…shot for my own enjoyment.”
After more photographs were subsequently found to be altered, with people, carts, obstacles removed, McCurry could not be reached for comment, though his sister Bonnie McCurry V’Soske, president of Steve McCurry Studios, LLC, stated that the photographer was travelling overseas and not checking email.
McCurry’s blog, where many of the unaltered shots were found for comparison, was then taken offline.
Speaking to TIME, the photographer has now set out to tell his side of the story.
“I’ve always let my pictures do the talking, but now I understand that people want me to describe the category into which I would put myself,” McCurry said. “So I would say that today I am a visual storyteller.”
Steve Raymer, professor emeritus of the Media School at Indiana University and a former National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) Magazine Photographer of the Year, last week chose to comment on the debacle on the behalf of the NPPA Ethics Committee, stating that “Distancing himself from photojournalism, on which McCurry has built his career, may not be as easy as issuing a press release and calling himself a fine art photographer.”
The NPPA Code of Ethics states:
‘While photographing subjects, do not intentionally contribute to, alter, or seek to alter or influence events. Editing should maintain the integrity of the photographic images’ content and context.
Do not manipulate images or add or alter sound (referring also to video) in any way that can mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects.’
McCurry told TIME: “The years of covering conflict zones are in the distant past. Except for a brief time at a local newspaper in Pennsylvania, I have never been an employee of a newspaper, news magazine, or other news outlet. I have always freelanced.”
“Some of my work has migrated into the fine art field and is now in private collections and museums. I understand that it’s virtually impossible to assign me to a specific category or classification, but that’s partly a function of working for 40 years, and having a career which has evolved as media itself has changed.”
Understandably, when talking about photojournalism, a higher standard is to be expected—all should appear as it appeared in reality. Though the photographer has a powerful arsenal in his or her gear and expertise, and no image should be considered totally free of bias, but should strive to be so, particularly in the case of photojournalism.
Whether or not McCurry was right to change his photographic style without notifying his peers and the public, the fact remains that the debacle will cast a shadow over the photographer’s highly esteemed career.
Once a photojourno, always a photojourno, or should we give the guy a break? Let us know where you stand in the comments below.