Failed Photoshop’s Peak Point
Failed Photoshop is universally seen as comedic. But as we laugh at subpar Photoshop, we miss a key message it contains: reassurance. Bad Photoshop offers soothing assurance that we can sort fact from fiction. This is the same reassurance offered by Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe—intellect will uncover prevarication. Our faith that we can sniff out lies is enshrined in practices from schoolyard grilling to political debate to trial by jury. Despite much evidence to the contrary, we believe lies will out, even when they take photographic form. There is an additional lesson in this particular example: subpar Photoshop can have real world consequences.
The photographs show mountaineers Narender Singh Yadav and Seema Rani Goswami on the roof of the world, the summit of Mount Everest. The pair of climbers from the northern Indian state of Haryana were members of a 15-person climbing team that tackled Everest. Based on the photographs, Yadav and Goswami asked Nepalese officials to grant them the coveted Tenzing Norgay Adventure Award certificates affirming they climbed the world’s highest peak.
Rookie Photoshop mistakes began to unravel the claim of a climb. Foreground flags hang windlessly limp. The climbers’ vivid blue and red high-altitude jackets are unreasonably crisp and unruffled. Shadows are inconsistent. The wrap-around mountaineering goggles show no reflections of snow or peaks. Finally, experienced mountaineers point out that the oxygen mask is not connected to the tank. Based on an investigation, Nepalese authorities banned Yadav and Goswani from climbing (or not climbing) Mount Everest and other Nepalese peaks for ten years.