French member of parliament Valerie Boyer recently proposed a law to include a disclaimer at the bottom of all enhanced press, political, art and advertising-based photographs. Backed by 50 other French members of parliament, Boyer’s efforts aim to reduce the instances of eating disorders across the country. While the attempt is certainly a noble one given France’s influence on the fashion world, enforcing the legislation may be another story. While Boyer has already managed to pass a charter against inciting skinniness, policing image doctoring may prove to be a much tougher task.
According to Reuters, if the bill passes, failing to add the disclaimer “would be punished with a fine of 37,500 euros ($54,930), or up to 50 percent of the cost of the advertisement.” In the case of Fashion Week advertisements, this could add up to millions. And trust me, it’s rare that any fashion, celebrity or campaign photograph hasn’t been retouched unless purposely made to reveal the subject’s flaws.
Dartmouth computer science professor and forensic imaging specialist Hany Farid is convinced that photo manipulation isn’t just a 20th century phenomenon as employed in a Polish Microsoft ad last month, but rather something that has existed since at least the 1860’s. He cites an image of Lincoln as being a composite of the President and of another politician’s body.
Says Farid in a recent issue of the IEEE Spectrum, “Even as experts continue to develop techniques for exposing photographic frauds, new techniques for creating better and harder-to-detect fakes are also evolving. As in the battle against spam and computer viruses, it seems inevitable that the arms race between the forger and the forensic analyst will continue to escalate, with no clear victor.”
Farid points to abnormalities in quantization (or image compression) and multiple points of light as telltale signs of image tampering. As services like Picnik and Fotoflexer continue to power the editing features in common photo sharing sites like Flickr, Photobucket and Picasa, it will be interesting to see how many forgeries are actually detected should the law pass.
Photo Credit: Art Comments (Lead Image), Hany Farid’s “Photo Tampering Through History” (Inset)