The digital alteration of photos is nothing new in the world of print magazines and newspapers. Photos on the cover of magazines are frequently digitally altered to improve the appearance of people, places, and products photographed.
The Associated Press (AP) is embroiled in a fight with the U.S. Army over a digitally altered image that was provided to the AP and distributed to the media. The photo in question is of General Ann Dunwoody and shows the general in front of a U.S. flag.
After the AP distributed the photo, it was found that the photo was digitally altered to include the flag. The original photo showed Dunwoody sitting at a desk with photos and a bookshelf behind her. As a result of the digitally altered image being released, the AP withdrew the photo and suspended the use of any photos from the U.S. Department of Defense.
A spokes woman from the DoD insists that the altered photo does not violate any U.S. army polices which stipulate that photos will not be altered to misrepresent the facts or change the circumstances of an event.
Colonel Cathy Abbott, chief of the U.S. Army's media relations department said that she did not know who had changed the photo or which office had released it. Abbot continued saying, "We're not misrepresenting her. The image is still clearly Gen Dunwoody."
AP's director of photography Santiago Lyon said, "For us, there's a zero-tolerance policy of adding or subtracting actual content from an image." Lyon says that the AP was in the process of developing procedures to protect against this sort of thing happening in the future and that after these procedures were in place he would consider lifting the ban on DoD photos.
This isn’t the first time that the AP has been provided with a digitally altered photo from the U.S. military. According to BBC News, in September a photo of a U.S. Solider killed in Iraq -- Darris Dawson -- was released that showed the soldiers face and shoulders appeared to have been digitally altered.
Abbott said at the time that the photo had been altered because the U.S. army didn't have an official photo of the solider for a memorial service and that the photo had been released to the public by accident.
According to the AP, the digital alteration of any photo for aesthetic or any other reasons damages the creditability of the information distributed by the military to the public and to news organizations. It hardly takes a trained eye to notice that the photo of Dunwoody appears to have been altered. Placing a photo in front of an American flag hardly seems to be a big issue to most Americans.
General Dunwoody was recently promoted to the rank of four star general, making her the highest-ranking female solider in the U.S. military. Many would understand the outrage and ban by the AP of photos from the DoD had they intended to mislead. Something along the lines of what Iran attempted in July when it altered digital photos to apparently cover the fact that one of the missiles in a test had misfired.