The probative value and photographic cogency

A photograph has an effect in journalism, which is referred to by the concepts of authentication and photographic cogency.

Since its invention in early 19th-century Europe, photography has been seen to make possible the objective or even scientific storing of information and evidence. Nevertheless, cogency has been a topic of heated discussion ever since photography was invented and, with the advent of digital technology, the discussion has become even more topical.

While photographs may not lie, liars may photograph.

Lewis W. Hine

There have always been many ways to manipulate even analogue photographs but, with digital technology, manipulation is easy and almost impossible to notice. Nearly all photographers process their images one way or another.

As American sociologist and photographer Lewis W. Hine remarked at the start of the 20th century: “While photographs may not lie, liars may photograph.”

Despite the fact that most people are aware of these possibilities, a photograph is still often perceived of as an objective record or evidence of an event, and it cements trust in the content of the text. After all, the photograph does “serve as evidence” to the fact that the photographer (or at least the camera) was there.

A photograph is still often perceived of as an objective record or evidence of an event.

This leads to two conclusions. First, the need for self-regulation for photojournalists is as urgent as for any other type of journalist.

Second, it is important for the consumers and audiences of visual or audio-visual content to remain critical towards any material we encounter in media – especially in social media.

Keep Reading:

Tips: How to Verify a Photograph?Photo Manipulation and Ethics
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This article was updated on January 13th 2020.