Minard Castle. Photo (cc) Mike 138.
If it were true that the camera never lies, then photography wouldn’t be a problem. It does though. Or at least a photograph isn’t a wholly objective record of reality. A couple of years back I was happy with this and was discussing illustrating an event using a photo mosaic. The universal reaction to this idea was horror, which surprised me. What I was planning to do was take a photograph of a site and manipulate the sky behind it — and make clear that this was a reconstruction not an original image. The overwhelming negative reaction meant that I’ve never done this. The alternative, that I draw a reconstruction of the event, and throw in a few imaginary people, with speculative hairstyles and clothes, standing around in small groups — without any evidence for this — was considered fine. I assume that people are ok with drawings being highly speculative, but still expect photo-quality images to be ‘real’, whatever that might be.
Photo editing is a serious problem as programs like Photoshop make it easier than ever to mess around with the exposure or the colours of a photo. If you’re photographing the result of an experiment, where the amount of colouration is an important part of the result, like in biology, then changing those colours is effectively falsifying your result.
I am wondering how far this extends to archaeology.