Rep. Nancy Pelosi Defends Doctoring of Press Release Photo

Photo Courtesy Nancy Pelosi/via Flickr

Photo Courtesy Nancy Pelosi/via Flickr

© Cliff Owen/AP

© Cliff Owen/AP


The hand-out photo that the office of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi gave to the press yesterday featured all 61 female representatives of the newly sworn in 113th Congress. The problem was: Four of the representatives shown in the photo came late to the photo-op, and were Photoshopped into the photo after the fact. According to Poynter, the doctored photo was uploaded to Flickr and also emailed to news outlets with a note from a spokesperson in Pelosi’s office that said, “Please note this version has the four Members who were late photo-shopped [sic] in.”  The four late arrivals were dropped into the back row of the group photo.

The AP released an undoctored photo of the scene, without the four missing representatives. It was shot by Cliff Owen.

At a press conference yesterday, Minority Leader Pelosi defended the release of a Photoshopped photo. ABC News reports that she said the representatives who posed for the photo were too cold to wait for the latecomers.

“It was an accurate historical record of who the Democratic women of Congress are,” Pelosi said. “It also is an accurate record that it was freezing cold and our members had been waiting a long time for everyone to arrive and … had to get back into the building to greet constituents, family members, to get ready to go to the floor. It wasn’t like they had the rest of the day to stand there.”

Questions linger about this photo doctoring incident, however. Questions like: Why does any news outlet still run hand-out photos, especially when there’s a wire service photographer on the scene? And: Should we trust members of Congress who don’t have the sense to wear coats when they go outside in Washington in January?

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8 Responses to “Rep. Nancy Pelosi Defends Doctoring of Press Release Photo”

  1. Tim Roth Says:

    I would argue that this has little to no bearing on the photography world at large, but rather speaks more to the get ‘er done mentaility of the people in charge of trite things like this terrible photograph.

  2. Eyeball Says:

    This totally inconseqential photograph has received more attention than it deserves. However, it should be useful in pointing out those who have such little regard to the discomfort of others that their inability to be on time has caused these other women to wait in the cold. Because these pinheads are so small in the photo PDN might wish to name those in government who can’t perform this basic function.

  3. mark gregor woods Says:

    Quite frankly, who cares? I know in the news photo world “no Photoshop alterations” is the rule, however in the portrait world doing something like this is common place. But they are not even the same. This is not a true comparison. The before Photoshopped image is not the base image for the one that was Photoshopped. It appears to be a different one from that shoot or much more has been Photoshopped than the four missing women. Also…”undoctored”, really?? This implies that some type of deception is in play here. I don’t think that’s really the case. However if this were 1963 it would have been a photo of who was present. End of story. Just because we can (add people in), doesn’t mean we should.

  4. Thomas Toohey Brown Says:

    Much to do about nothing…

  5. flexible fotography Says:

    I think it’s OK to have an altered photo as long as there’s the attached disclaimer of alteration. As Pelosi says, it’s an historical record not a news photo.
    What’s NOT OK is that 4 of 60 – 6.66% of the female caucus! – was late to their photo shoot! Not a good way to begin their tenure in congress.

  6. Brian Smith Says:

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi knows how a Vanity Fair cover shoot works…

  7. Ispy Says:

    If the four latecomers were shopped into the back, then who is the woman in blue on the far right of the first row? And why is she in the AP photo, but not in the hand out?

    Inquiring minds want to know!

  8. Rebecca Says:

    These are NOT the same photo at all. Look at the woman in the white, first row, 5th from the left. Her arm is down in the Pelosi photo, whereas it is bent at the elbow in the Owen photo.
    The woman in the red in the first row, 3rd from the right has her arm bent in the Pelosi photo, but it is straight in the Owen one.
    The woman on the right at the end of the first row is wearing a dark jacket, trousers and appears to be facing front in the Pelosi photo, whereas the woman in the Owen photo is wearing a blue dress and faces left.
    The women on the far left of the Pelosi photo on the second and third steps are clearly not the same as the ones in the Owen photo.
    The arm of the woman on the fourth row far left of the Pelosi photo is in a different pose than the Owen picture.
    Probably Cliff Owen took several photos, but the one the AP released as the “real” photo is not the same as the one Pelosi “doctored.”