Sources for the Specimens
Let’s be clear: we have not mined previously unseen, undiscovered specimens. No digging is required. The internet is thick with photographic fictions—together with accompanying debates, debunkings, declarations and defenses—and this is precisely the point. Falsehoods are ubiquitous. We do not need new examples, we need analysis.
Each of our seven categories, Manipulated, Manufactured, Recontextualized, Timeshifted, Extracted, Mirrored, and Denied, is illuminated by selected “type specimens,” sterling examples collected from across the internet. In biology and the earth sciences, type specimens have two qualities: they are excellent examples and they are also, almost uniformly, collected early and preserved in an important permanent collection, precisely like our representative cases. (Here’s an illustrative example from biology: Cryptosporidium parvum. C. parvum, as it is commonly known is parasitic on humans, not unlike social media. In fact, in developed countries, it is arguably the most important waterborne pathogen. This protozoan species was first collected in 1912 by the “large and kindly” Harvard physician and parasitologist Ernest Edward Tyzzer who extracted the single-celled animals from the gastric glands of laboratory mice. Tyzzer placed his C. parvum examples, illustrations, and descriptions in the Registry of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology which still holds them as the type specimens for this parasite.)
Our collected type specimen photographs, for all their occasional charm and polish, are not high art (a marginal practice of elites); they are scruffy and active, woven into the fabric of life. They stay out of galleries. They steer clear of fine art precincts where images feel like taxidermy: silent, crafted to imitate life, yet somehow still formulaic, glassy-eyed, and static. Instead, our photographs roll up their sleeves, range into the world’s darkness, and get busy pounding triangular pegs into round holes. These photographs are pure image: active, wheels on the ground, unhindered by artiness.
Online photographic lies, like flash flood debris, cover everything. They are so abundant that hundreds of institutions and websites have emerged to sift and search, to separate fact from fiction. Our type specimens are chipped out of the strata uncovered by these sleuths, detectives, and debunkers. For further exploration, here are a few websites among many.
Agence France-Presse Fact Check
BBC News – Reality Check
C4 News FactCheck (UK)
FactCheck.org (Annenberg Public Policy Center)
The New York Times – Fact Check
Real Clear Politics – Fact Check Review
Reuters Fact Check
Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology ABC Fact Check
Truth or Fiction
USA Today Fact Check
The Washington Post Fact Checker