“The camera never lies” is a myth and these photographers explain why

May 1, 2020

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

“The camera never lies” is a myth and these photographers explain why

May 1, 2020

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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During the coronavirus crisis, the importance of keeping a distance from others keeps popping up. And yet, we keep seeing photos that show people standing way close to one another. The camera never lies. Or does it?

Copenhagen-based photojournalists Ólafur Steinar Rye Gestsson and Philip Davali decided to debunk the myth that the camera always tells the truth. In an experiment for the photo news agency Ritzau Scanpix, they took photos in public using different lenses and perspectives. The photos they made show just how much you can change the story by simply changing the angle of view or the focal length.

DIYP got in touch with Kristian Djurhuus of Ritzau Scanpix. This news agency supplies news coverage in video and images to all Danish media. Kristian tells us that the proximity of people has widely been debated in Denmark lately, just as it has been in the rest of the world. Photos that people can see in the media play a big role and tell stories that may not necessarily be true:

“Danish politicians as well as authorities has on numerous occasions in public statements frequently referred to images which they believed to show members of the public behaving in disagreement with the general guidelines. On social media images has also been used by people to shame others for their behavior.”

Looking at these photos, folks at Ritzau Scanpix realized that their images could be misinterpreted. All images can, for that matter. The story lies in the perspective, and lens compression is another important factor that can twist the story, especially in times of crisis. So, they decided to create a series of images that show the difference in stories told through them. Ólafur and Philip hit the streets of Copenhagen and photographed the same groups of people with different lenses and from different perspectives.  Take a look at the photos and see for yourself:

©Ólafur Steinar Rye Gestsson/Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix
©Ólafur Steinar Rye Gestsson/Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix
©Ólafur Steinar Rye Gestsson/Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix
©Ólafur Steinar Rye Gestsson/Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix
©Ólafur Steinar Rye Gestsson/Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix
©Ólafur Steinar Rye Gestsson/Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix
©Ólafur Steinar Rye Gestsson/Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix
©Ólafur Steinar Rye Gestsson/Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix
©Ólafur Steinar Rye Gestsson/Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix
©Ólafur Steinar Rye Gestsson/Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix

I believe we’re all aware of the effect of lens compression. And even those who aren’t into photography know how much the angle can change the story. But in the times of crisis, when we’re all emotional, it’s easy to forget about these things. Unfortunately, some media count on that, so they doctor images and tell fake stories by simply playing with angles or lens compression. But even if there’s no misintention, readers can interpret the images wrongly.

“To my knowledge regarding Danish media no conscious manipulation seems to be taking place,” Kristian tells us. “But we can talk about responsibility.”

“As producers of photography we have in these times a responsibility to draw attention to the fact that images in some cases does not show the proximity of objects as accurately as people seems to believe. This is a case where a basic, nerdy photography-fact has gained new meaning, because of a global event.”

Kristian tells us that this isn’t an issue of “right lenses” versus “wrong lenses.” It’s about the story we want to tell, and about being aware how people will interpret it. “These times have made it obvious that we somehow need to make users and readers of images aware of something that only photographers used to care about,” Kristian tells DIYP, “and our images featured here is one attempt at this.”

There’s another goal of this project, aimed at all media companies. In addition to being aware of how readers might interpret the images, it would also be ideal to always provide additional clarification by using captions.

I believe that this project has another important function. It raises a question of media manipulation and shows us just how easy it is to do it. It reminds us to think beyond images and keep our critical thinking even in times like this when we’re under emotions.

You can find more of Ólafur’s work on his website and Instagram, and Philip’s work on his website and Twitter.

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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8 responses to ““The camera never lies” is a myth and these photographers explain why”

  1. Lis Thomsen Avatar
    Lis Thomsen

    In line at my local postal shop ;-)

  2. Marco Peixoto Avatar
    Marco Peixoto

    Photography is one of the most deceiving things to create imagery… but then its Photoshop editing that is “faking it” :D

  3. Mike Van Den Berg Avatar
    Mike Van Den Berg

    Lens and the point of view not camera

    1. Chaz Madge Avatar
      Chaz Madge

      Angle of view you mean

  4. JustChristoph Avatar
    JustChristoph

    Whoever thought up the ‘The camera never lies’ aphorism was a liar.

    1. bruzote Avatar
      bruzote

      I never met a camera that lied. Cameras create images which are nothing more than data, nothing less. If you can’t figure out your interpretation of data is based on assumptions that leave you vulnerable to risks of incorrect conclusions, that’s on you, not the camera.

  5. Ralph the Bus Driver Avatar
    Ralph the Bus Driver

    Years ago, I got a parking ticket on a Sunday night while visiting my brother. I went back the next day and took some shots of the place where I was parked. They should have either trimmed the tree or placed the sign elsewhere. When I went to court I used the photos I took to show there wasn’t any “No Parking” sign.

    No, the camera didn’t lie. The photographer (me) took advantage of angles and foliage to hide a sign that wasn’t openly apparent. The $35 I saved on the ticket cost me a half day’s work and a long drive. But I beat the ticket.

  6. bruzote Avatar
    bruzote

    The camera does NOT lie. Seriously, it is just simply that people must think CRITICALLY before making critical decisions about what they see. From childhood, we DO learn the difference between angular separation and linear separation. The only problem here is NOT using what we learn early in life – critical thinking is ESSENTIAL for critically important judgments, EVEN WHEN YOU ARE A GROWN-UP.