November 25, 2008

General Touch Up

BBC News via AP

Beyond the fact that the Army doctored a photo of Ann Dunwoody, America’s first female four-star general, I’m curious about how the National Press Photographers Association, along with other media, chose to describe the doctoring itself.

Comparing the grainy original to the redo, NPPA singles out just two aspect. One is the removal of the background and the insertion of old glory. The other is the removal of the stars on Dunwoody’s uniform. Naming only these elements, however, gives the sense NPPA purposely avoided the main point, which is the tuning up of Dunwoody herself, including her hair color and complexion.

Earlier this year, the DOD drew profound scorn due to the ghastly doctoring of photos of servicemen who had died in Iraq. The face of one of the soldiers was photoshopped onto the body of the other in order to generate an image for a memorial service. Although an unconscionable act, the motive, at least, was fairly comprehensible.

The case of General Dunwoody is more ambiguous however, and seems to unavoidably bring gender into play. Even if the military was trying to avoid the trouble of producing a more presentable (and real-life) photograph, one has to wonder if the Defense Department would have gone to the same effort had they elevated just another male general.

I’m interested in your overall take, as well as your thoughts on the visual specifics. (For example, maybe military PR had something against the General’s dog?)

(images: BBC News via AP)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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