Foreshortened COVID-19 Photos Are a Deliberate Deception

For some reason the issue of lens foreshortening has invaded my Twitter stream in the past couple of days. I happen to have a couple of pictures that show this pretty well, so I figured I might as well post them. The first is a picture of the line outside my local Trader Joe’s:

Everyone is waiting patiently and is properly distanced from each other. Now here’s the same picture, but taken from the front with a zoom lens fully extended:

Yikes! What a bunch of idiots? Don’t they know they’re supposed to stay six feet apart?

This is entirely an effect created by using a long focal length lens, which produces foreshortening, and shooting into a crowd instead of across from it. And for what it’s worth, every photographer and every photo editor—without exception—knows this. If they run a picture like the bottom one, they’re deliberately trying to deceive you. It’s one thing to use this technique as an artistic choice at a fair or a crowded street, but it’s quite another if it accompanies a story about social distancing, where it’s assumed to make a concrete photojournalistic statement.

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Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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