“When photography was invented,” photo historian Vicki Goldberg once said, “it was thought to be an equivalent to truth. It was truth with a capital T.”
But as viewers quickly learned, seeing isn’t always believing. Even in the early history of photography, hoaxes like the Cottingley fairies taught people to question the validity of the images they saw. Today, we’re well aware that photos can be digitally altered—which means that the public trusts the authority of photos, including journalistic images, a whole lot less.
It is valuable for members of the public to question the authenticity of images that they see. But as contemporary audiences have grown more sophisticated about digitally manipulated images, they are now faced with a new form of manipulation: photos coupled with political propaganda, further pushing society toward the post-truth age.
Consider two photos taken of US vice president Mike Pence on Inauguration Day. Pence tweeted one photo from the parade, which was taken from a head-on camera angle. The angle of the photo focuses solely on Pence and his family walking down the street, showing nothing of the parade onlookers.