PYRAMIDS OF GIZA, EGYPT
FEBRUARY 1982
PHOTO BY GORDON GAHAN

REPRESENTATION:
The Pyramids of Giza in Egypt on the cover of the February, 1982 issue of National Geographic magazine by Gordon Gahan.

REALITY:
This National Geographic magazine cover demonstrated one of the earliest high-profile cases of digital photo manipulation. The horizontal image was altered to fit the vertical cover, shifting the two pyramids closer together. When the issue was publicly released, the photographer, Gordon Gahan, saw the cover and complained.

In a 1984 article in The New York Times, Fred Ritchin wrote that “Wilbur E. Garrett, the Geographic’s editor, defends the modification, seeing it not as a falsification but merely the establishment of a new point of view, as if the photographer had been retroactively moved a few feet to one side.” Ritchin sees this case as the beginning of the digital era in photography.

The manipulation damaged the magazine’s credibility. Tom Kennedy, who became National Geographic’s Director of Photography after the incident, stated: “We no longer use that technology to manipulate elements in a photo simply to achieve a more compelling graphic effect. We regarded that afterwards as a mistake, and we wouldn’t repeat that mistake today.”

Although lesser discussed, Gahan reportedly paid the men to repeatedly ride across the frame to get the photo he wanted.


Learn more:

Image copyright Gordan Gahan