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June 25, 2009

TIME Cover:Iran vs. Iran vs. Iran

Time Iran vs. Iran.jpg

Honestly, after posting the similarly-situated Economist Iran cover earlier this week, I mostly skipped over the latest from TIME. After catching Daryl Lang’s post and reader comments at PDN, however, I got a lot more interested.

Lang and the PDN readership chose to concentrate on the technical and ethical questions of why TIME cryptically labeled the cover as “digitally altered.” Writes PDN commenter TC:

Why did Time not call this picture a “photo illustration” and be done with it? If this image was as “digitally altered” as it looks (to me) to be then it has no business being called a news photo. As a former picture editor my yardstick has always been — levels, curves (contrast control), dodging, burning and color correction is OK, anything beyond is forbidden for a news photograph. Once you cross that line you lose credibility for everything you do forward.

I’m wondering what compelled TIME to make a collage for the cover in the first place? Besides not knowing where one image ends and the other begins, I don’t understand the narrative. Is there an “up-front” message here about gender? Is there a significance to the fact the two protesters, back-to-back, are juxtaposed with the group of men, left, mostly hanging around? And, what’s up with those fingers?

Finally, with real images so hard to come by, and with the truth being what this struggle is about, what message does TIME send in creating it’s own version of the reality — one most readers would not even consciously realize has been altered?

(Note: According to Lang, the cover credit originally stated: “Photograph from Sipa Press. Digitally Altered.” The credit, as I found it on the TIME website this morning, appears below.)

(current image/caption: PHOTOGRAPH FROM SIPA PRESS. DIGITALLY ALTERED. INSETS, FROM LEFT: PHOTOGRAPH BY RAOUL BENAVIDES FOR TIME; PHOTO-ILLUSTRATION BY C.J. BURTON FOR TIME)

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