Quickpost: While the presence of the observer changes the behavior of the observed, the truth may lie within the area of confluence between the photographer, the subject, the moment, and moreso technology i.e. camera equipment and postproduction methods. The question for me here is whether the disputed authenticity of the images and the demystification of the photographers’ method erode the impact the photos give the viewer and diminish the significance of the historical “moments” caught by these photos.
Discussing, among others, the above photo and the controversy whether the moment was staged or not, Philip Gefter in his essay “Icons as Fact, Fiction and Metaphor” in the New York Times Photojournalism blog Lens said:
As a witness to events, the photojournalist sets out to chronicle what happens in the world as it actually occurs. A cardinal rule of the profession is that the presence of the camera must not alter the situation being photographed. The viewer’s expectation about a picture’s veracity is largely determined by the context in which the image appears. A picture published in a newspaper is believed to be fact; an advertising image is understood to be fiction. If a newspaper image turns out to have been set up, then questions are raised about trust and authenticity. Still, somewhere between fact and fiction — or perhaps hovering slightly above either one — is the province of metaphor, where the truth is approximated in renderings of a more poetic or symbolic nature.
Then let photos like these try and withstand the test of time.