The Online Photographer

Check out our new site at!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Detrich Update

This is an update to our post "Detrich Resigns" from April 10th.

Following an investigation by the Toledo Blade, explained by Blade Vice President and Executive Editor Ron Royhab on, it now appears that Allan Detrich might have been more in the habit of altering photographs than he was willing to admit. An excerpt from Royhab's article:

"An intensive investigation of Mr. Detrich's work, conducted by Nate Parsons, The Blade's director of photography, found that since January of this year, Mr. Detrich submitted 947 photographs for publication, of which 79 had been digitally altered.

"Twenty-seven of the altered photographs were published both in the newspaper and on, and an additional 31 were published only on Another 21 altered photographs submitted by Mr. Detrich were not published.

"The changes Mr. Detrich made included erasing people, tree limbs, utility poles, electrical wires, electrical outlets, and other background elements from photographs. In other cases, he added elements such as tree branches and shrubbery.

"Mr. Detrich also submitted two sports photographs in which items were inserted. In one he added a hockey puck and in the other he added a basketball, each hanging in mid-air. Neither was published.

"The Blade is removing all of Mr. Detrich's photographs from and blocked access to any of his photographs in the newspaper's archive. Like many other newspapers, The Blade shares its work with the Associated Press, an international news cooperative. On April 6, the AP removed all 50 of Mr. Detrich's photographs from its archives.

"Honesty is the fundamental value in journalism."

This also would seem to render Detrich's defense of his actions (in his blog) to be itself deceitful.

Mr. Royhab goes on to cite the NPPA's Digital Manipulation Code of Ethics, which he says Detrich signed. It states:

"As journalists we believe the guiding principle of our profession is accuracy; therefore, we believe it is wrong to alter the content of a photograph in any way that deceives the public.

"As photojournalists, we have the responsibility to document society and to preserve its images as a matter of historical record. It is clear that the emerging electronic technologies provide new challenges to the integrity of photographic light of this, we the National Press Photographers Association, reaffirm the basis of our ethics: Accurate representation is the benchmark of our profession. We believe photojournalistic guidelines for fair and accurate reporting should be the criteria for judging what may be done electronically to a photograph. Altering the editorial a breach of the ethical standards recognized by the NPPA."

Update posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON, thanks to bomath


Blogger Rohan Phillips said...

It's sad to see that a well-respected photojournalist has been intentionally modifying his images for some time. I intially wasn't quite sure who to believe, although when he changed his story after having his laptop checked, I found his change of tune a bit suspicious, so finding out the truth now isn't a complete surprise. What he did wasn't a crime, but it tarnishes the reputation of photojournalists in general, bringing into question the reality of newspaper photography.

6:23 PM  
Blogger BlankPhotog said...

Key phrases in what he allegedly signed: "modify the editorial content" and "to deceive the public." I don't think what he's accused of doing did either thing, but others may disagree. However, they are right to say he deceived the editorial board by submitting a number of pictures he claimed weren't altered when in fact they had been. That is a breach of trust between photojournalist and publisher.

12:14 AM  
Blogger erlik said...

Well, erasing a pair of background legs that were completely unimportant and adding a basketball hanging in the air is two different things. The latter is clearly changing the editorial content.

12:57 AM  
Blogger The Worst of Perth said...

Yes, no one could be mistaken that adding a basketball would not be deceptive. Ai ya!

1:29 AM  
Blogger Peter Hovmand said...

Thanks for following up on this very important issue, Mike. We all have to beware of bad habits. I never, never remove or ad anything from my pictures. Especially not basketballs. I do a little bit of cropping, though. Is that fair? Editing into black and white? Ofcourse it is okay now. But maybe not in the future. 2100: Black and white pictures = only for artistic work?

3:37 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm sorry to see this kind of stuff being taken so seriously especially when it comes to just removing just annoying parts of the image, parts that would have nothing valuable to add and have no particular relevance to the (photographic) story. But... But! There ARE some rules, and if PJs are required to abide by them, they should do so.

And while we're at it: the people that made those rules are somewhat against modifying even the whitebalance (from RAW), they grin over pushing/pulling a whole image and they completely forbid selectively modifying the saturation/luminosity/contrast. This I cannot understand.
Do remember that cameras have only a limited dynamic range, and this can be easily overcome by contrast/luminosity masking; this is also forbidden. OK, rules are rules, but... WHY? They seem to limit the perfectly reasonable tehniques that would make the most out of an image. Again: why?

P.S.: National Press Photographers Ass. published a kind of "official" POV:

6:54 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Well, we could say that forbidding altering stuff like WB etc is going completely over the top, but I think there is a general distrust of photos in the mind of the general public, who are aware (soemwhat) of what can be done by digital manipulation, so if a newspaper wants to be seen as a reliable source of information, then it may need to be "whiter than white", even where that entails making (otherwise) pointless rules.

8:29 AM  
Blogger Mark Bridgers said...

I think the point is not whether the legs change the meaning of the picture, but whether the reader's trust of the newspaper's photos is affected.

I have read the Adobe is working with Reuters (or another news agency, I forget right now) to keep a history of all changes, GPS coordinates, etc. so there is a trail of editing changes. This way, any question can be easily resolved, and the veracity of digital photos can be ascertained.

9:34 AM  
Blogger fogg said...

Speaking as a working student-PJ this is completely unacceptable. If I am shooting a basketball game and I get an action shot with no ball I have no shot at all; pasting a ball in is beyond any acceptable bounds of editing. Everyone can go crazy on this post debating what is ok and what isn't, but the bottom line is that it comes down to not what was done to the photo, but who does it. An honest photographer is going to want to, not just be required to, keep his work honest, no matter what he/she does to it.

To the post who said that he was sorry to see things being taken so seriously "especially when it comes to just removing just annoying parts of the image, parts that would have nothing valuable to add and have no particular relevance to the (photographic) story." I have to disagree with you. If you are shooting for personal use, art, a portrait in which people expect it to be retouched, etc. what you do is our own business. But, when you shoot as a member of the working press you have an expectation and a responsibily to not alter your work in such a manner. If you don't like the random arm or leg or tree branch in the frame then change position and shoot a different angle or crop it out. As for things like white balance, well, if I shoot in a stadium and my photos come out with an obvious green or red cast due to the lighting (a cast which is not like the human eye sees it) then in fact by changing my white balance in post to be a closer record of the event I am preserving the integrity of the photo, not hurting it.

10:24 AM  
Blogger erlik said...

Mark, I'd bet you that it will be possible to change the edit trail.

11:50 AM  
Blogger cb said...

Such work renews my mockumentary feeling about photography as a whole: it is always presented as if it were a documentary recording real life, were in fact it is always fictional.
Photoshop is just a summation and a perfection of methods that have been turning up in photography all before.

3:26 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

What i see is only the old "a picture must be a copy of the reality" which is not possible at all and in any way. Reality is reality pictures are pictures.

However if we go with the NAPA what to say of journalist who omit to speak about unnamed legs going around the field or write about flying balls while they were not ?

3:37 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Every lie is true.

Till you're caught.

7:39 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home