It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and yet it never seems to tell the whole story.
Since the creation of language, the exchange of information has been the foundation of society. Today, the majority of information in our daily lives is disseminated through pictures, both moving and still. From television broadcasting to Instagram, our society is constantly being documented. Yet, all those pictures rarely tell the whole story. All they do is just give us mere glimpses into the world around us. And when we consider the high possibility of editing, the pictures can become even less revealing. So, how do we know the real story? Should seeing be believing?
There are many ways of altering the reality a photograph portrays, one of the most common methods is cropping. Cropping has been around about as long as pictures themselves. All one had to do was take a pair of scissors and snip off the parts they didn't like. With a few simple actions, one can completely change the perceived message a photograph portrays by altering the images context.
Cropping photographs of a political nature can also be known as visual political censorship. Visual political censorship was quite common in 19th century France under Napoleon. It also has occurred in the Soviet Union, Cuba and Uruguay. More recently, political censorship has been a trademark of the absolute rule of Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un in North Korea.
The second method of changing a photograph is photoshop. Photoshopping is just as prolific as cropping, especially in the advertisement industry. Photoshop typically changes the message a photograph portrays by altering the photograph itself. It can be used to create a funny meme (insert confused Spongebob here) or it can be used to create an unrealistic waistline on a model in a swimsuit ad. However, while one produces laughs, the other has resulted in the creation of unrealistic body images for women, and men, in our society.
The American Medical Association recently released a statement regarding the connection between the proliferation of photoshop throughout the media and the uptick in eating disorders:
"Advertisers commonly alter photographs to enhance the appearance of models' bodies, and such alterations can contribute to unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image - especially among impressionable children and adolescents. A large body of literature links exposure to media-propagated images of unrealistic body image to eating disorders and other child and adolescent health problems."
Not only is our society inundated with pictures, we have come to accept photographs as fact. We question and research political statements and rumors, yet we fail to question photographic “evidence” despite the high likelihood of editing. This acceptance soon fosters false truths in our minds such as “North Korea is the most powerful nation in the world” and “If she's that skinny, then it’s possible for me to be just as skinny” (or worse “I should be that skinny”). So the next time you see an ad (political or otherwise) or are scrolling through Instagram, keep in mind that not everything you see in a picture is true.