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Doctored Kerry Photo Brings Anger, Threat of Suit
Published on Friday, February 20, 2004 by the San Francisco Chronicle
Doctored Kerry Photo Brings Anger, Threat of Suit
by Carla Marinucci
 

The photographer who snapped John Kerry attending a 1971 anti-war rally says he and his photo agency intend to track down -- and possibly sue -- whoever doctored and circulated a photo that made it appear that the then 27-year-old Vietnam veteran was appearing alongside actress Jane Fonda.


An image of Jane Fonda from 1972, right, was added to a photo of John Kerry at an anti-war rally in Mineola, N.Y., in 1971 to produce the doctored picture.
Ken Light, now a UC Berkeley professor of journalism ethics, says he photographed Kerry at an anti-war rally in Mineola, N.Y., on June 13, 1971. The decorated Vietnam veteran was preparing to give a speech at the rally -- but Fonda was never at the event.

Light's photo gained prominence when someone took it and merged the shot of the now Democratic presidential front-runner with another separate photo of Fonda -- one taken by photographer Owen Franken as the actress spoke to a 1972 rally in Miami Beach, Fla.

The fabricated Kerry-Fonda photo was circulated with an identifying logo of the Associated Press and became the subject of talk show fodder after it was placed on many Web sites as evidence of Kerry's "anti-American" activities after his war service.

Light said this week that the use -- and misuse -- of his copyrighted photo might result in legal action.

"(We're) doing everything possible to track down who it was and bring them to justice,'' said Light, who said the Associated Press also intended to examine the issue of who would use the agency's copyright for fraudulent purposes.

A spokesman for Light's photo agency, Corbis, said its photographers' work and copyrights are treated seriously.

The agency will "investigate this matter and take appropriate action as necessary,'' the spokesman said.

Light, who teaches at the journalism school at UC Berkeley, said he regularly instructed his students on matters of law and photo ethics. But ironically, this year, "I've become the lesson,'' he said, referring to how easy it has become to produce sophisticated and potentially damaging photos via computer.

"With modern technology, anybody can do it,'' he said of the doctored photo of Kerry, now a 60-year-old, four-term Massachusetts senator. "Someone has to be really motivated and understand what they're doing.''

Still, "it's one thing to (create) an image and another to try to make it look like it came right from a newspaper,'' Light said. The addition of the Associated Press logo suggested that whoever fabricated the photo was "definitely more than someone having fun. ... People just see it, and it creates this impression that it really happened."

Light said he was outraged by his almost 33-year-old photo's popping into the news and becoming the subject of such Internet chatter.

"I was completely shocked and a little disappointed there would be this type of fakery in a political campaign,'' he said.

"You become very concerned for democracy when you realize people are so angry, they're desperately trying to find anything to tilt the direction of what people are thinking,'' he said.

©2004 San Francisco Chronicle

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