Photographs are common images. We see them every day and know a great deal about how they are created. Still, we often assume that photographers simply point their cameras at a subject, snap pictures, and then print them for us to see. Actually, photographs can be manipulated in many ways, dramatically changing the meaning of a final image.
Even before the age of digital manipulation, photographs could be altered through cropping or hand-painted negatives, to reflect changing realities or shifting political conditions. A photograph could be given a completely different meaning by including, excluding, or changing certain portions of the image.
Historians have to ask questions of photographic images when using them as evidence. We have to study them carefully, looking for the ways in which photographers or editors may have changed original images to fit a particular vision or agenda.