I am personally very clear about how I feel. In any context where the image is to represent news or factual information, I feel there should be no tinkering with the exception of some editing for clarity, such as lightening etc. Any images used to sell a product, should accurately depict this product. However, any associated imagery is not to be believed, and in my book is free for personal interpretation. Classic cases in question are models and their often digitally enhanced appearance. Fine art photography is a subject on to itself and anything goes.
For this assignment I have been asked to make a book cover and give my ethical justification for any work carried out on the image(s).
First, here is the cover...
The technical aspect
The cover consists of three images over a black background. The two obvious images are of course the noose and the hangman. There is a third image of some blurry trees which I will mention in more detail in a moment. Take a look at the images in their original form.
Starting with a black background in Photoshop, I added a new layer with the tree image. This layer was set to about 90% opacity. Next, my friend Vincent was added to a new layer. To this I added a layer mask and with a large, soft brush painted out above his top hat and around his hands. The Vincent layer was set to overlay which allowed some of the trees to show through. Now, about the trees. If I had gone straight to the layer with Vincent, the Hangman, the image was to clean and lacked any form of atmosphere. Although you cannot see the trees in the finished image, they form a nice 'misty' texture and add a bit of mystery.
Before moving on to the layer with the noose, I added some soft 'black to transparent' gradients. some originating from the bottom left to blend Vincent in a bit better and one from the top down to create the dark area under the main title.
Next, the noose was added and the unwanted parts of the noose image were removed by way of another mask For the final step text was added for the title and the strap line.
I initially thought that there was no requirement for any ethical justification for the cover of a paperback novel but as I was typing it dawned on me that actually there is. The book I have chosen to represent is fictitious but if you were to take a guess at the content I suspect you would be thinking along the lines of Victorian based crime/horror story. This would indeed tally with what I imagined the book to be about. Imagine your horror then, if the book actually was a love story set in the year 3560! I would have deceived you with the cover and if you had hurriedly picked the book up at the airport with no time to read the synopsis, I wager you would be pretty unhappy on that flight! Therefore, I do have an ethical obligation to represent the contents of the book accurately.
With regard to the content of the picture? Well Vincent is a jolly nice chap and would never hang anybody. He is aware that the image would be used to picture him as a hangman, so there is no ethical dilemma here. Had I snapped a complete stranger and then used the image in the same manner I would be acting in a non ethical manner and could possibly end up in trouble.