Unseen Passage: The Camera Can Lie

Much to their annoyance, pen-pushers are routinely reminded that a picture is worth a thousand words—except that sometimes they can be wrong “words” as happened last week when Reuters was forced to withdraw more than 900 pictures taken by a freelance photographer after it was suspected that he had “doctored” two recent photographs of the Israeli-Lebanon conflict.

In one picture, the smoke billowing from an apartment block after an Israeli air strike was allegedly thickened by the photographer, Adnan Hajj, to dramatise the impact of the bombardment — and in another two flares were suspected to have been added to an image of an Israeli jet in action over Lebanon.

The allegation of doctoring, first made by several bloggers, was confirmed by Reuters after an inhouse investigation. Mr. Hajj, who had sold pictures to Reuters for more than 10 years, denied manipulating the two photographs and attributed the thick smoke in the first picture to “bad lighting” and the fact that he was “trying to remove dust marks.” As for the second, he said, “there was no problem with it — not at all.”

But Reuters was not convinced and said it was removing all of this pictures from its database and would not be using his service any more. “This represents a serious breach of Reuters’ standards and we shall not be accepting or using pictures taken by him,” the news agency said.

The idea that the camera never lies is as misleading as the notion that all statistics are meant to mislead. What the “eye” sees is not always what it looks like, thanks to the many ways in which first the camera and then the photograph can be — and is often — manipulated. Indeed, a photograph can be manipulated in more ways — and more effectively — to convey a false reality than it is possible to do through the written word. Ask any clever photographer and he will tell you the tricks camera be made to play.

At a seminar recently, one journalist recalled how there was a time when British photographers, covering stories about famine or floods in Third World countries, would carry teddy bears with them in order to use them as prop for pictures supposedly showing that all that was left in household, stricken by death and destruction, were children’s toys.

Q. On the basis of your reading of the passage given above, answer the following questions:

  1. To interest the children Teddy bears were used as:
    1. manipulations
    2. props
    3. conflicts
    4. statistics
  2. A __________ can tell us about the tricks played by camera.
    1. picture
    2. photographer
    3. reuter
    4. dramatist
  3. The allegation of doctoring was confirmed by:
    1. Israelis
    2. Adnan Hajj
    3. Reuters
    4. Freelancer
  4. The picture of the smoke rising from an apartment block in Lebanon:
    1. was actual picture
    2. was manipulated by a photographer deliberately
    3. appeared thick in picture due to bad lighting
    4. all of these
  5. As per the passage, a camera:
    1. always gives fake pictures
    2. never gives fake pictures
    3. sometimes many give fake pictures
    4. none of these
  6. British photographers left teddy bears in household, stricken by death and destruction in floods in Third World countries with a view to:
    1. Showing that all that was left in household were teddy bears
    2. Showing that most of the flood victims were children.
    3. both (1) and (2)
    4. neither (1) nor (2)
  7. Reuters deliberately accepted the manipulated pictures. (True/False)
  8. The allegation of manipulating pictures was confirmed by _____________.


  1. props
  2. photographer
  3. Reuters
  4. was manipulated by a photographer deliberately
  5. sometimes many give fake pictures
  6. Showing that all that was left in household were teddy bears
  7. False
  8. Reuters

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