A couple of years ago, a reader wrote to me expressing annoyance that this photo of a soldier returning home for Christmas was obviously staged. It was, as he put it, "a fake." He knew that because he has a photo of the same scene with a different embrace shot from a completely different angle.
Well yes, it's extremely unlikely that a press photographer just happened to be passing by as the soldier was knocking on the front door of his home after returning from the war. I was reminded of this today because Facebook is sending in lots of visitors to look at another entirely staged set of photos showing a boy dressing up as a girl to sneak into a hospital to visit his mother.
I learned about staged newspaper photos as a child. A family friend was a reporter for one of the NYC newspapers. He was assigned to write a back-to-school piece and asked our family to participate.
My parents agreed, so a photographer from the paper came by the house on a weekday late in August and drove us to a department store. He had us pose in different locations around the store. I was surprised by how many photos he took.
The shot that was printed was taken from the top of a tall ladder looking down at us while we pretended to check out the shoes. The whole thing was staged, but when it was published it was presented as if we were actually doing back to school shopping. A nice puff piece about our family, mostly true, accompanied the photo.
I was only 8-years-old, but I remember feeling that something wasn't quite kosher about the whole thing. It wasn't terribly distressing, but my pride about appearing in the newspaper was tinged with disillusionment. When I showed my friends the paper, I didn't tell them that the picture was a fake. Perhaps it was the first time I realized that all is not as it seems in the adult world.
And this reminds me that People Magazine's most beautiful people in the world issue is out. Jennifer Lopez has been chosen as the most beautiful woman in the world. Of course the perception of beauty has a strong subjective element and, anyway, this isn't a list of the most beautiful people in the world; it's a list of attractive celebrities whose mugs are expected to sell lots of magazines. And the press is dutifully reporting all of this as if it's news.