INTRODUCTION ... WHAT WE CAN FIND NOWADAYS
• Manipulation, digital retouching, or excessive postproduction or abusive processing, unfortunately prevail in all facets of photographic contexts.
• Authenticity and ethics have been diluted progressively in the photography context, to the same extent that a kind of “everything works” has been set, in parallel with the search for presence, visibility and the coveted “likes” in the networks.
• Nature and journalistic photography have not been left out of the contamination of the publications of thousands of images, on which one cannot discern between the authentic and credible. What unfortunately increasingly prevails with more intensity are “images” product of the digital edition, losing so the essence of authentic photography.
• The advances in digital technology and simplicity in the use of digital tools invite photographers to access the easy and direct path in the creation of beautiful and amazing images, which are far from what we all understand as pure photography.
• Whether in social media publications, in photo portfolios, or in photographic competitions, the limits of what is commonly known as “in-camera photography” are exceeded unscrupulously, in a perverse search for recognition and prestige.
• To be able to give credibility or determine what is real in a photograph published in any medium today, has become an act of faith.
• Even in those forums or contexts where the shadow of the doubt should never fit, as occurs in national and international photography competitions, we can see non-reliable procedures or anomalies that often happen about checking and verification methodologies, in addition to an absence of standards and homogeneity. All this status conducts us to an environment of doubts about the galleries of images we can see.
• The conclusion is that probably, documentary photography is currently facing its greatest credibility crisis it has ever witnessed. And in all this context, all actors in the photographic community face a situation of helplessness and lack of guarantees.
• On the one hand, those photographers who are faithful to an orthodox and truthful methodology in the execution of their photographs, are not exempt from the shadows of doubt in a good part of their photographic works, as they are also unfairly suspicious of possible abuses, having limited their capability to demonstrate the veracity of their works.
• On the other hand, the photographic competitions that dictate their sentence on which photographic works are the creditors of a distinction above the rest, under the criteria of the team of jurors, may also be subject to limitations of technical or temporary resources in their review and verification methodology of veracity of images they evaluate.
• Competitions juries can also see their decisions conditioned by suspicions or doubts about hypothetical red lines crossed on edited images, when they are carrying out the viewing of them. So they do not focus entirely on aspects purely linked to the aesthetics, composition, quality, creativity or innovative technique applied.
ABOUT PHOTO COMPETITIONS …
The circumstances and troubles that photo competitions are facing as of today, could require a review of the current methodology and processes, which could be summarized in the following aspects:
• Absence of unified criteria in competition rules, which leave indeterminate what are the limits in the processing of an image. There is nothing more to pay attention to some statements from rules of any international photography contest, where there are evidences such as:
o “Only global moderate settings are allowed”
o “Only moderate adjustments of contrast, focus, noise reduction and non-abusive use of lighting or dimming tools will be admitted”
o “The image must be very similar to the original one according to the RAW file”
o “Minor and reasonable adjustments are allowed in processing”
• It is therefore evident that the generality of competition rules opens the door to inappropriate or improper uses, as well as, above all, to the disparity of criteria between one and the other competitions.
• These are therefore the connotations at present which denote a clear demand for revision of the current methodology:
o Doubts about the procedures and methodology applied in the review of photographs. Most of competitions are a kind of black box with unknown processes and without all the guarantees for the participants.
o Disparity of evaluation criteria for image admission, results in photographs that are authorized in some competitions while they are rejected in others.
o Management resources and investment capacity for the processes of verification of images on every competition, implies that in many of them, there are not enough controls for technical verification aspects as metadata analysis, limiting the review to just visual aspects.
o The limitations of technological resources or management mentioned, entail that there are many fraudulent or adulterated photographs, which access to final stages of selection as potential creditors of distinction, which can still be rejected after verification of the original RAW file. Those illegitimate images have relegated legitimate ones to final rounds, with the consequent damage and lack of guarantees for many photographers.
o This vitiated and inefficient methodology, also has as a negative consequence, the unnecessary and unproductive investment of time by jurors, who have carried out a review work for nothing with respect to those disqualified photographs.
CONSEQUENCES AND BENEFITS OF IMAGE CERTIFICATION
• The transcendental change that entails “verification and approval” of an image in advance, by getting a previous certificate of validity, which would be unique and inseparable from each file, will entail the disappearance of inefficient processes of revision and verification of RAWs, adding full guarantees for the methodology itself, providing a valid workflow to determine and assurance of authenticity for all images in the different contexts.
• The establishment of IRCC and provision of a certifying institution, supported by an associative structure of which all photographers will be a part, will allow the introduction of guarantees to photographers, third-party viewers, jurors and managers of photographic competitions. Teams of external auditors who verify the procedures of evaluation, analysis and certification, will complete the credibility of the new intended methodology.
• IRCC will provide detailed guides and education about admissible image edition, in accordance with measurable and quantifiable parameters between the edited photo proposed and the original version from which it starts.
• On the other hand, IRCC will provide public lists of certified images for all photographers who would like to have public certified portfolios, easily verifiable through the HASH certificate (SHA256) granted, or by QR codes that will be incorporated into each image. All related files would be stored and custodied under guaranteed security protocols.
• Then all photographers who wish to do so, will be able to make their work credible and show their certified galleries and portfolios through a site that will gather most of the photographic community that performs their photographic work legitimately.
• The certification provided in advance to the images, will entail the suppression of subsequent requests of RAW files for a verification of authenticity, which will be no longer necessary once having obtained their certification previously. Thus, a new way will be put in place that will lead to participation in competitions exclusively with certified photographs, under discharge of responsibilities on hand of competitions management towards IRCC, concerning the verification of the authenticity of images.