Photographer Harry Fisch won the 2012 National Geographic Photography Contents with the image above. Look carefully at both images. One of them is the raw, unprocessed photo, and the other is what Mr. Fisch submitted to Nat. Geo. Can you see it yet?
Aside from the minor contrast and color changes that were allowed, Mr. Fisch made one small change – he digitally removed the plastic bag that is in the right side of the raw image. National Geograpic’s stance? Cropping it out is okay, but using the clone stamp tool to remove it is not. This is a great example of the way the world is these days: A company that was one of the first to have such a controversy years ago (see this article for more information) is now so afraid of the repercussions that they don’t allow anything like it to exist in their publication.
I personally feel bad for Mr. Fisch. His photograph is a fantastic one, and I think it probably deserved to win. I think Nat Geo is being a little too legalistic in their stance. However, I understand it. As we have talked about before in class, people think of photographs as “the truth,” and they think that especially of photographs published in Nat Geo. So I ask, does the removal of that plastic bag change the photograph’s “truth factor?” I don’t think so. But the lesson is clearly learned here – Mr. Fisch should have just cropped in a little bit, and the image probably would have been just as strong.
And he would have won.