CAMERA POSITION AND NEWS MANIPULATION
This week in Northern Ireland saw yet another political agenda being promoted and furthered by the skilful use of photography. To say that ‘the camera never lies‘ is no longer true in the age of digital manipulation, but was it ever? The simple shifting of the photographer’s position can change the perspective of the viewer, flatten distance, and be used to make a political point.
In Northern Ireland, the building of a bonfire, and the lighting of the fire on the 11th July is a tradition, long held among certain sections of the Unionist or Loyalist community. It is an expression of loyalist culture. When I was a boy, back the 60s and 70s, little bonfires were made in each street, no more than little piles of planks and scrap. But the local authorities tried to regulate the tradition. The street bonfires left a mess that needed to be cleaned up, and sometimes caused damage to properties. Often the materials that were burned were far from helpful in controlling pollution; tyres were often burned, pouring out toxic smoke into the air. To solve these problems, some councils began to offer grants to buy pallets, which would burn more cleanly, on condition that the street bonfires were replaced with centralised pyres, and pollutants excluded. This led to pyres like this one in Newtownards:
It was this massive bonfire that became the subject of a media scam, fuelled by deceptive photography. Apparently this bonfire in Newtownards was built RIGHT BESIDE THE LOCAL FIRE STATION! An image was produced to prove the point, The media picked up on the story immediately, – radio programmes, a Twitter storm, newspaper articles, with the collective might of the left lining up to demand that the bonfire be dismantled and removed.
On 9th July 2021 I reproduced the photograph which caused the ‘offence’ – an image showing the ‘alleged’ juxtaposition of the pyre and the fire station.
It looks authentic. There’s no Photoshop manipulation, the image is ‘as shot.’ But what has happened is that camera position is flattening the distance between the bonfire and the Fire Station. It is deliberately deceptive, and it set the local news agenda for a whole morning, before some locals pointed out that the distance between the fire and the station is considerable, with a stretch of waste ground and a four lane road between! Still, the Left got a whole morning of free publicity and a chance to pour more odium on the working class loyalist community of the town.
Here’s some more images…