Photos Don't Lie. . . or Do They?

Photos Don't Lie. . . or Do They?

Last Friday, during the 4th quarter of Stevenson High School's IHSA Boy's Basketball Class 4A semifinal game against Whitney Young, Jalen Brunson made a three-pointer shot that was "waved off" and instead a foul was called. Jalen, who was clearly upset with the call, threw his arms up in disgust. In that split moment, a picture was taken (among a group of shots) that made it look as if he was giving the finger to the opposing team and fans.

It has almost been written in stone that "photos don't lie." Throughout many different times in history and the last century popularized with cameras, people have been able to take one image and show what the meaning behind it was and explain in detail how someone was feeling by their body language. In this case, there might have to be an exception made. There has been quite the controversy over the image below on whether or not player Jalen Brunson was giving the finger/flipping the bird to the opposing team or if he was just caught in the middle of a body movement.

when photos lie high school basketball giving the finger Photo by Scott Strazzante - Chicago Tribune

This image may not have been such a big deal had not a photographer from a Peoria, IL newspaper decided to send his own version of the image to be published with the caption of "Jalen Brunson of Lincolnshire Stevenson makes a gesture to the Chicago Whitney Young Crowd." If anyone who had not been at the game saw this moment there is no dought that the initial reaction would have been to think Jalen was completely flipping off the crowd and making it clear. Honestly, when I first caught glimpse of this, that was my reaction. But, the photo series below from Scott Strazzante shows that the moment captured was just that, a moment. It wasn't a reaction held for seconds on hand, but instead just someone who's body was in between two movements that got the worst portion of it publicized.

giving the finger timeline Photo Sequence by Scott Strazzante - Chicago Tribune

"In my own opinion, this entire situation is like having a photo session where someone sneezes mid shot and you publish it anyways and title it "client let's one rip during session with no regard to people around." Obviously everyone will believe the picture because none where there to see what actually happened.

Here is a short video clip that shows the whole event in real time (it does autoplay, so be aware of that):

According to Scott, after the initial photo was published to make it seem as if Jalen was being unsportsmanlike, "the Twitter-verse exploded. . . People criticized the young man and others criticized the photographer, charging the image was fabricated." He even said that things got so bad that the IHSA was considering suspending Brunson for the third place game that was to be played Saturday evening. In the end no action was taken.

Later on, Jalen Brunson wrote on Twitter "I apologize for the image that was captured in last night's game but I do not apologize for the action because I didn't do what was portrayed."

This is definitely a tough case all around and it is hard to really pick a side. Maybe the photographer that initially publicized the image is at fault, or maybe Jalen really did mean to react that way but caught himself and carefully brushed it off to make it seem like a movement. What are your thoughts on the entire situation?

All images used with permission.

[Via Chicago Tribune - Scott Strazzante]

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Jared Ladia's picture

It seems odd that he holds his finger that way for so long in each hand. It kind of does look like he is flipping the bird in the sequences..It would be better to see video.

John White's picture

I believe there is some out there. I'll update the post when I get it Jared.

John White's picture

Ok @jared_ladia:disqus, we have the post updated with some video now :)

Jaron Schneider's picture

If you see the video, it's hard to make the case he was doing anything intentionally except flailing his arms.

Jared Ladia's picture

Yea I see that now. I also didn't take into account that the sequence happened in 1 second. But the video definitely confirms it was simply a quick movement.

too quick to be malicious

I would disagree.

In pro sports (hockey specially) being quick enough and sneaky enough could mean getting away from a penalty and gaining a power play.

This looks like he's trying to get away with bad sportsmanship...

Gaining a power play with a split second bird flipping?

I don't know basketball. I can't see the point in this gesture.

All I'm saying, is that it's not because it's quick and out of sight, that it's not intentional! He could have wanted to taunt but revised himself a split second after, etc...

Are you allowed to post the entire image series without crediting the source? Seems like you are stealing the images from the newspaper.

John White's picture

I linked his article directly at the bottom and sourced who took the photos directly above the images when I was talking about them.

Because linking is right to use as ANY photographer would tell you....

^ this.

Patrick Hall's picture

How about when you email us you use a real email? I'm sure meh@ aol.col isn't amused

I DO use a real email on disqus.

Sooooo yeah....

John White's picture

We did contact Scott and he was ok with us using his images and even thanked us... But thank you for your concern into what we were doing.

In this "linking is copyright" age, you can't blame me for jumping to conclusion. Good to see that you didn't go the easy way!

Linking for credit doesn't count. You've lifted the images without getting permission from the photographer....

He mentioned in another comment that it's legit. Good enough for me!

That's incorrect. This is a case of "Fair Use," if I ever saw one.

First, the images have been repurposed to facilitate the discussion of the image we're having here, which is entirely different from the original use of the photograph in question. Also, the images are being used in an "editorial" use, not a commercial use.

Second, the images in question were already published.

Third, the number of images used may seem like a lot, but they are clearly the minimum amount needed to understand what happened, and to facilitate a useful discussion of the images.

Fourth, the use of the images in this article and discussion doesn't deprive the copyright owner of income or undermines any new or potential market for his work.

Finally, while some may be offended by the use of the images here, and the discussion the SCOTUS has clearly indicated that is not a factor in determining whether or not the use of the images is "fair use."

These are the factors copyright law and the courts have laid down as the rules governing "fair use," and the use of them here, obviously conforms to the requirements as set forth by those rules.

It's important to understand that there are portions of copyright law, which specifically permit some uses of copyright material, without needing to gain the permission of the copyright holder, or pay compensation to the same. While it's always better to seek and gain permission from the copyright holder, as was done here, it's not required by law. Moreover, proper attribution was given. In addition, no compensation is needed when using images under "fair use."

While this part of the discussion is really a separate issue, far from the intent of the article, I hope it's alright to add that it's important for both photographers and publishers to understand copyright law thoroughly, in how it applies not just to ourselves, whichever one is, creator or user, but also how it applies to all. We can save ourselves much angst if we take the time to learn about this important subject.

It even looks like he said the "F" word. Watch it closely.

Jaron Schneider's picture

That's pretty common in any professional sport. Watch any 30 minute segment of basically any game (except MAYBE baseball) and you'll see someone drop an f bomb.

I've never enjoyed how classless specifically football is...they over celebrate the littlest things...Imagine what would happen if baseball players flexed after a base hit...or a force out at second...let alone a homerun

Dave Andrade's picture

What a silly discussion. Even if it was intentional, it wasn't maintained. He didnt sit there for seconds on end holding his fingers up. Stuff happens. Shutter speeds on cameras are fast. Maybe, for example, it looked like you are going to kick a person when all you were doing was lifting your leg to jump and the camera was snapped at the wrong time. Everything in context.

Phil Bautista's picture

It's not a silly discussion because the photographer intentionally misled the public to believe that the kid flipped the crowd. This started a heated conversation on the internet and could have had serious repercussions for the kid if a proper investigation hadn't been conducted. He could have been suspended or worse. And even outside of that, a fan of the opposing team could have taken serious offense to the alleged gesture and retaliated against the kid in a serious manner. What the photographer did should not be condoned by the journalistic community and should be treated as a serious breach of etiquette and conduct in reporting just the facts.

It's amazing how damning the photos appear, but the video really serves to highlight the context of the action. The entire gesture happens over the course of 2, maybe 3, seconds. It's a great example of photography's ability to distort the perception of time and therefor our judgement of the actions that took place in that timeframe. How many strange quirks about ourselves would we discover if someone was always photographing us like this?

It's a questionable editorial call, it's certainly the image with the most "impact", but maybe not the most honest portrayal of the event.

It seems like he was trying to make the 3point-shoot hand gesture, but they didn't count... so started the sign, but regret it halfway through.

That makes a lot of sense, didn't think about that until you said something.

That photo was at most 1/500 second. Not many of would stand up to that level of scrutiny in our daily lives, much less an emotionally charged situation.

Give him the benefit of the doubt and stop trying to gin up a big controversy.

Regarding the title of the article, the photo isn't lying. At that split second, he truly did have that motion, as is evidenced by the photograph. The problem is when people assume and attach their own stories to the image without first doing proper research to find out what truly happened.