Kate, a snapshot and an AI crisis


Never has the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words been more appropriate than with reference to the British royal family’s recent photoblap of Princess Catherine of Wales.

What should have been a simple Mother’s Day snap of Princess Catherine – or Princess Kate as the public knows her – and her three offspring, George, Charlotte and Louis, has not only led to conspiracy theories about the nature and severity of the princess’s health, but moreover, provoking large-scale debates about the increasing implications of artificial intelligence (AI).

All this now after Kate herself apologized when it was noticed with hawk eyes that this family photo – which is also the first official photo of the princess since her abdominal surgery in January – contained editing errors upon closer examination.

Social media users initially pointed out that Princess Charlotte’s left hand was misaligned with the sleeve of her sweater.

So-called “photo editing experts” are fast-tracked by publications such as People and Time Magazine called in – claiming that the photo contained as many as 15 signs of photo manipulation, however; among other things, that the trees in the background are “too green” for the British winter months, that one of Prince Louis’ fingers appears blurry in the photo and that little Charlotte’s hair looks uneven in places.

American talk show hosts The View joked that the one thing they should have edited out in the photo was the princess’ engagement ring with the signature blue sapphire, because its absence in this photo now obviously means that Kate and William’s marriage must be on the rocks.

News agencies such as AFP and Reuters quickly removed Kate’s snapshot from their systems because it did not meet these agencies’ photo standards.

Buckingham Palace surprisingly deviated from the late Queen Elizabeth II’s golden rule of “don’t complain, don’t explain” and the princess herself let the photo blunder stand in for her.

Is it fair to crucify Kate for this alone?

Look, those of us who have played with programs like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom know for ourselves how easy it is to abuse the so-called “blemish tool” – which is often used to flatten facial wrinkles or make an unsolicited pimple disappear – and make a mistake similar to that of the princess.

What may have been an innocent mistake on her part, now the first chance the royals had to nip the already bizarre allegations about her health in the bud, escalated properly.

Although her recovery time is still in line with the original timeline laid out by the palace in February, the further spread of the photo has become almost amusing.

Those who may not even have known or cared that the British royals have been thinned out since the princess’ surgery and news of King Charles III’s cancer diagnosis are now going to play detective on social media to get behind the hatchet.

The internet is currently overflowing with headlines and questions like: “Is that ever her in the picture? Is she lying somewhere in Windsor in a medically induced coma? Why is she sitting rather than standing in the photo – is she paralyzed then?”

Hashtags such as #freekate – a play on Britney Spears fans’ campaign to have her then-guardianship scrapped – have even made the rounds on X, with fans arguing that the palace has thrown the princess under the bus by letting her take responsibility for a mistake that might have been avoided by highly paid publicity managers.

A few hours after the photo was published, Princess Kate was photographed in the back seat of a car with Prince William.

Speculation immediately arose online that even this latest paparazzi photo was also doctored, with social media users claiming that there were “inconsistencies” in the brick wall in the background of the car.

Goff Photos, the photo agency responsible for this photo, denied editing the images and told E! News said that the photos were “cropped and brightened”, but insisted that “nothing was doctored”.

Even Meghan and Prince Harry, the Duchess and Duke of Sussex, have been dragged into the debate, with their friend and award-winning photographer Misan Harriman accused of altering a photo taken of the couple to announce the Duchess’s second pregnancy. , doctored.

Harriman expressed his displeasure in an Instagram video and even shared the original photo to put allegations to rest.

AI crossfire now inevitable say experts

In a world where “deep fakes” and AI-generated media can fool even the most discerning eye and lead to fake news, according to experts, the implications of this innocent photo extend beyond just the personal image curation for celebrities and influencers.

Elijah Clark, an AI automation marketing consultant, said in a recent report for Forbes-magazine went so far as to say that this photo will blur “the lines between reality and illusion” for the public’s image of the monarchy now more than ever.

According to Clark, especially well-known figures such as the British monarchy cannot afford to make such a mistake because although the ridiculous theories about the princess’s health may sound far-fetched, it nevertheless highlights the increased scrutiny and skepticism with which public figures are confronted in the era of digital and AI manipulation.

As these types of editing tools become more and more accessible and sophisticated, the line between harmless enhancement, which may have been the princess’s sole purpose, and fraudulent misrepresentation is blurring more and more.

Therefore, an extremely transparent approach and sense of responsibility will be expected from Buckingham Palace as a brand as a whole, and not just its individuals.

This incident is also a good opportunity for us as media and social media users to rethink when it comes to the things we want to highlight, because is an edited photo of the Princess of Wales worth all these headlines, heated online debates and fuss ? This coming from someone who never hesitates to commission her editor to write something about the royals.

We may also have to ask ourselves whether a woman, regardless of her title and nation-owned status, owes it to the public to share intimate details about her health in public.

Even Omid Scobie, the royal commentator who exposed the Princess of Wales as one of the royals who reportedly made alleged racist comments about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s (then unborn) son, Archie, has some sympathy for Princess Kate. breached.

“It’s fair to say that most photos released by the offices of public figures have been edited in some way, so as an isolated incident this is just an unfortunate mistake,” the Finding Freedom-author written on X.

“But with the palace’s long history of lying, covering up and even issuing statements on behalf of family members without their permission (cc: Prince Harry), it is becoming increasingly difficult for the public to believe a word (and now photo).”

Buckingham Palace will have to brace itself for allegations, speculation and even mockery about any future photos coming out of their quarters (full marks for the municipality of Stellenbosch jokingly edited images of the princess on Stellenbosch University’s campus).

However, as a royal lover, my own biased plea to the public is: “Keep calm and let Kate carry on!”