Is Seeing Believing? Resources for Teaching About the Manipulation of Photographic Images

©2006 Frank Baker

Civil War Stalin Magazines



“The assumption a lot of people make is, well, pictures don’t lie — you can believe what you see,” said Santiago Lyon, director of photography for the Associated Press. “But of course pictures can lie, and they do lie, and they’ve been manipulated for a long time.” (Source)

 “Any media that employ digitally doctored photographs will have a stronger  effect than merely influencing our opinion — by tampering with our malleable memory, they may ultimately change the way we recall history,”  University of Padua researcher Dario Sacchi– upon release of a study on how people’s recollection of historical events is affected by digitally altered news images.


Note to educators: “Is Seeing Believing?” is the title of a curriculum I discovered at the Newseum, a museum of news in Washington DC.

It deals with the manipulation of photographic images in news, history, and culture. I became fascinated by this topic, so I devoted this web site to it.

Throughout history the photograph has been manipulated for various purposes. It is important for students to understand those purposes and to learn how to question images they find in media and on the Internet.

Here you will find a number of contemporary examples of the “digital manipulation of images” as well as links to articles about the ethics and the issue.

A good starting point for students might be the handout “Key Questions,” which helps them use critical thinking skills as they analyze the images.

Let me know what you think of this resource.

NOTE: Special thanks to Theresa Redmond, Visual Arts educator (Peoples Academy Middle Level in Morrisville VT) for sharing her Webquest and Powerpoint on this topic.

Current recommended articles/resources:

Take the Fake or Photo Challenge

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