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Media Manipulates Society By Taking Photos
May 5, 2020
Everyone knows that reality is subjective. Our perception may change in an instant depending on how much and what exactly we know. But two Danish photographers have taken the idea to a whole new level.
In the times of the current crisis, keeping a safe distance is key. Even if countries are starting to ease restrictions on quarantine, it doesn’t mean it’s over. But how do we know, from the pictures alone, that people are doing what’s right? It turns out, we can’t.
Photographers Ólafur Steinar Gestsson and Philip Davali conducted an experiment for the photo agency Ritzau Scanpix. The Copenhagen-based artists photographed the same people chilling out outside on the same day. Their trick was to use two different perspectives—a wide angle and a telephoto lens. The pictures show a staggering difference in the distance between these people and make us rethink the things we take for granted.
Bored Panda contacted Kristian Djurhuus, the editorial manager at Ritzau Scanpix, who appointed Philip Davali and Ólafur Steinar Rye Gestsson for this shoot, to find out more about the project.
Kristian told us how he came up with the idea: “The proximity of people has widely been debated in Denmark in the past weeks. Danish politicians and authorities have frequently referred to images which they believed to show members of the public behaving in disagreement with the general guidelines.”
As a national photo news agency that supplies visual coverage on the coronavirus pandemic, “we became aware that our contribution could be misread,” said Kristian. This unique and critical situation has assigned a new meaning to basic technical facts like the choice of angle and perspective. “The technical choices have never been a debatable issue in the history of photography,” Kristian explained.
Since the issue of misreading photography is completely new, Kristian can’t see why it can be used with ill intent. And this is something we need to be aware of. “As producers of photography, we have a responsibility to draw attention to the fact that images in some cases does not show the proximity of objects as people seem to believe.” Kristian said that the right solution would be to clarify the circumstances in the captions of the images so that they won’t be misread.
The wide angle is similar to the way our eyes see. Ólafur Steinar Gestsson explained to a local Danish website: “it takes wider pictures, and as a photographer, you use it when you are close to what you need to photograph.” Similar types of cameras are built into our iPhones.
Meanwhile, the telephoto lens is the long lens used to photograph press meetings, football matches, and any situation where the subject is far away. “It gets closer to what you are photographing, and in a way, it pulls the subject together,” he said.
Ólafur toldTV2 that viewers should be aware of the lens and equipment photographers used to take a particular picture. “If there was a description in the caption of how the image was taken, the editor would have the freedom to choose.” According to him, photographers “must always keep in mind how we do our job, especially in times of the corona crisis.”