Is the real not good enough?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by antoniobassiphotography, Nov 29, 2010.

  1. I would like to free my polemical and inquiring mind. I was just responding to a comment on one of my photos when the following questions popped up in my mind. I will paste the exact words I used, with just a few adds between [], for practical purposes:
    I see a lot of visually strong images that are "muscled up" by heavy digital editing as to create a reality that is better than the original. A good and easy example is the contemporary production of landscape photography (but also other fields), that shows the most incredibly beautiful, sharp and super-saturated panoramas that do not correspond to the real at all and are mostly realized with thousands-of-dollars-worth gear. Reality is not like that! And what's the point in showing a reality that is not real? Why do we have to improve what is real? Is the real so visually weak to our eyes? [Why do we always have to overwhelm nature with technology?] Is nature not good enough for us that we must [look at] it it "improved" and sharper on a HD screen? The real is already so beautiful and spectacular, we just have to find the best way to capture IT on film. Nowadays, we never have enough of special effects...​
    I would like to add something. Many painters used the real and transformed it according to their artistic vision (Van Gogh's corn fields or starry sky) but we are not talking about painting or visual art here. We are talking about photography, that is very different. Visual art and photography are not the same; visual art is art and photography is something else (I don't really know what...). If a photograph looses its nature of being a photograph (representing the real, even if interpreted), it becomes something else. So, why do we need to "muscle up" and often ruin the essence of what could have been much more pure and powerful in its original state with not much editing?
    What do you feel about it?
    Please do not feel offended by my words, I am here to get answer to my questions and find out if I'm missing something. Thank you.
  2. The answer to the "WHY" in you post is because .. we can. Now more the ever, on a wide scale with digital cameras and post processing. People are looking for the "fantasy" scene ... not as it was, but as they imagine it to be. Surreal HDR, over sharp, over saturated colors ... removal of everyday objects that dont "fit" into the scene has they see it in their mind's eye.
    We've got millions of people taking pictures, and editing them to their version of perfection. But still no that many "photographs." Some of the best images have been made with manual film cameras, and a minimum of manipulation in printing. A lost art and concept.
  3. Photography isn't a visual art? News to me. There has always been a lot of interpretation in photography and some didn't like the colors of Velvia, for instance--and how real is black and white? I am not saying that just because we can, we should or that just because we can, it is good, but then why not and sometimes it is.
    Everyone has a preference and nothing in the history of photography could ever lead one to believe that a photograph is real or that is somehow the criteria for a photograph........
    .......not a visual art?
  4. I agree. Photography IS a visual art. Several people can photograph the exact same exact and come up with different photographs that have different moods and elicit different feelings....
  5. A photograph is not a replication of the real even though a small sample (about 10 to the minus 25 kilograms) of the subject matter is needed to make the process happen. The relationship of photograph to subject is indexical. This means that a photograph is an absolute certificate for the existence of a particular subject but it is also only a very selective describer of that subject matter.
    A good example of indexicality is a footprint in a soft surface. The footprint assures us that someone walked by but it does not tell us how tall the person was or whether they wore glasses. Moreover footprints in sand look different from those in mud but both are still indexical.
    Pictures manufactured in a digital environment don't need an indexical relationship to any particular subject. All that is needed is a displayable file and such files can be conjoured out of thin air in whole or in part. Modern digital picture making is a mechanisation of the old arts of painting and drawing and as such is ultimately hostage only to the imagination and not the real world.
    Both kinds of picture making, photography and digital, can generate beautiful images or lurid ones that can be enjoyed or reviled on their own merits.
    As for reality itself, well we can get a pretty reliable taste of it by just looking out the window.
  6. Your opinion that photography is not visual art is .... yours.
  7. Maris, indexicality is a whole other topic and the loss of such in photography, at least in part, may be the OP's point. The fact is that digital manipulation, which is much older than most even understand, has weakened the argument of indexicality, as might be evidenced in the work of folks like Demand and Gursky--and even Wall, for that matter.
  8. Kim
    Some of the best images have been made with manual film cameras, and a minimum of manipulation in printing. A lost art and concept.​
    Not a lost art and concept, it still exist and many great photographers still use it. They are trying to convince us that we need "surreal HDR, over sharp, over saturated colors ... removal of everyday objects that dont "fit" into the scene has they see it in their mind's eye" but we really don't. They just throw this model on our faces every day thousands of times and we start to believe that that's better than the real.
    John A and Kim
    The art in photography does not lay in the technical and visual aspect, but in the mental and emotional process the photographer does when he visualizes and takes a shot. That's why it is not "visual" art, because it is "emotional" and "mental" art of the photographer itself capturing a real scene that should be the same for everybody but it is not.
    The relationship of photograph to subject is indexical. This means that a photograph is an absolute certificate for the existence of a particular subject but it is also only a very selective describer of that subject matter.​
    Agree with part of it (should check out my other forum post). A bit too pragmatic for me, you should read Roland Barthes' "Camera Lucida".
    As for reality itself, well we can get a pretty reliable taste of it by just looking out the window.​
    Are you positive about that?
    Very often we resolve situations by saying... oh well, this is my opinion and you have yours... That's called relativism.
  9. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Some of the best images have been made with manual film cameras, and a minimum of manipulation in printing.​
    Many of the "best" images ever made were made with manual film cameras and a huge amount of manipulation in printing.

    So what? Photographs are what the photographer wants them to be, not reality. Only the most trivial shots approach reality.
  10. Jeff ... my point was that in every forum, every photography community online, those new to photography are looking for the best gadgets, sharpest lens, and newest advances in technology thinking that THOSE things will make them take fantabulous photos. They won't. They key is the photographer.
  11. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    The question struck me as being about "reality," not equipment. The mention of equipment in the original post was very brief and not the point of the post, from what I read.
  12. Antonio, so is painting, print making and sculpture also not visual arts? Certainly I know a few who work in these mediums that would feel pretty denigrated if they were told their art was only technical and visual(odd that photography isn't!?) and not also emotional or mental--and let's not forget concept. It seems like twisting things around to one's own purposes. These are all visual arts, you can coin your own verbiage and definitions, but they are not so different really.
  13. We also have to remember... what is "reality". Our eyes see things differently than a dogs eyes. Our ears hear different things, as well as our sense of smell is very different. I'm sure that reality to a dog is very different than our reality.
    Also I believe that 2 people do not see the same way. I would imagine we perceive colors ever so slightly different, and obviously our perspectives are very different.
    Just my thoughts.
  14. I sympathize with Antonio. I lean much more to the realistic school of photography, trying to get an image as much like what I directly perceive as possible.
    Yet I don't always want to just record. Photography is so much more than indexical - sometimes I want to produce an image of what I wanted to see.
  15. Jeff
    Even if done in a darkroom, any manipulation is excessive IMO. Bresson didn't need to have his images edited over the simple contrast control, masking and dodging and cleaning off scratches or imperfections.
    Photographs are what the photographer wants them to be, not reality. Only the most trivial shots approach reality.​
    It's like saying "I play Mozart the way I want" and this is the mistake many musicians do today, swimming in this cultural relativism that well fits our times; in playing classical music there are freedoms and there are obligations to follow due to political, philosophical and social influences on the single authors. Saying "that's the way I like to play it" is too easy.
    Capturing the real does not mean that you want to represent the real; it's easy to create dreamy and spectacular "new" digital alterations; what's hard is to make people dream and think with just capturing what already IS by nature beautiful or emotionally and intellectually deep, without adding heavy editing to it. Avedon didn't need to do much with this photo besides understanding and processing the emotional and intellectual contend this man produces. This is when photography becomes art, not when it is visually charged and muscled up.
  16. John A
    It's not that photography isn't related to "visual", I'm saying that the art in photography should not come from how great the subject looks but how it is captured. Photography and painting are not quite the same as photography is a bit "freaky" since it represents a scene that is gone from existence in the very moment the shutter is released. There is more involved with photography than just cool colors and amazing lighting effects.
  17. Bresson? Yep, his black and white photographs perfectly match the reality of the scene photographed.
  18. Jeff
    I think I didn't make myself clear. I am not talking about the fact that photography should represent the real. I am saying that great photography is for me the one that represents what the photographer wants to represent but through an image that is not manipulated and is exactly showing on paper as it showed through the viewfinder. It's the concept behind that counts.
  19. Allen
    I's not about technical once again. I am a black and white guy and I see in black and white when I shoot. What I mean is that I don't want to muscle up the clouds or create fake lighting effects to make my shot more interesting, or even move objects from one side of the frame to the other. If I want to say something I need to capture something that speaks, not something dull and make it interesting through digital effects. I don't care about technical.
  20. Okay, lets continue with the that, "exactly showing on paper as it showed through the viewfinder." Again, the world is not black and white, so we should not shoot B&W. Long exposures are out. The eye sees at the equivalent of about 1/60 of a second. So shorter exposures are out--sorry, no more wings frozen in flight, no soccer player frozen in mid kick, no more long exposures of the sea, no more silky waterfalls....
    What about color saturated films? Sorry, Velvia is out, only NC films from now on. This was actually an issue when it first came out.
    No more zoom effects (okay, I can live without those.)
    Lets take it a step further, should we no longer shoot macro, micro, long lenses, etc. Why are we limiting the discussion to how it looks in the viewfinder. Shouldn't we limit it to how things look to the naked eye? Wait, didn't they have that discussion in 1880?
    You keep stating that you don't care about the technical. The way a film records the image is "technical." A long exposure is "technical." Isn't the choice of a certain lens "technical." Using a yellow or red filter is "technical."
    What it all boils down to is you don't like some of the techniques people are using now. Fine. I don't like some of them either. But don't try to confine the rest of us just because you choose to use a different technique and somehow consider your technique genuine
  21. Allen
    I posted a link to an image to better explain my point but I guess I will have to post the image and explain. Click to open in a new window if you want to see a bigger size.
    Here it was my intention of capturing and rendering the idea of tension at the moment players look at their cards. I captured the image on b&w film but that's not the point. The point is that the image looks on paper exactly how it looked through my viewfinder. If I shot in color it would have been in color but that's not the point. The point is that I didn't want to add any special effects to increase the communicative power of the shot; instead, I tried to shoot a scene that already had that, and this for me was the artistic experience, to see the scene and process it.
  22. I ask myself what's the point of having a great HDR image made out of many different shot that holds perfect shadows, details and all but is emotionally and intellectually dull. I much rather look at an image that is minimally edited but has tremendous communicative power, such as the shot by Avedon I linked above. By the way, I forgot to mention the title of that shot, that is very important to fully understand the power of the message: "William Casby, born a slave, 1963"
  23. John Kelly, where are you? Come in my help! ;-)
  24. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    >>Avedon didn't need to do much with this photo

    Avedon's photos are more heavily manipulated than most of his contemporaries, and as much as what's being done now. If you've seen his prints, or his markups to his darkroom person, you will know that.
    >>I am saying that great photography is for me the one that represents what the photographer wants to represent but through an image that is not manipulated and is exactly showing on paper as it showed through the viewfinder.
    First of all, you can't show what is seen through the viewfinder. The process changes all sorts of things. Nothing seen through a rangefinder and shot wide open looks blurred like the background. Colors can't be rendered "as seen" for all colors except through very heavy manipulation. There is nothing about the photographic process other than the relative placement of the elements that will necessarily be represented the same way. Sorry, the idea is nonsensical.

    Second, you cant talk about what photography you like, and what you think is great, but you can't define "great photography" for the rest of us. I don't submit to that kind of thing. However, it's worth studying Avedon, who you brought up, as a good example, as most of his work was incredibly heavily manipulated.
    The photo you posted doesn't look anything like what you saw through the viewfinder unless you are completely color blind. Nothing like "reality" however you want to define it.
  25. Robert
    Very often we resolve situations by saying... oh well, this is my opinion and you have yours... That's called relativism.
    I was trying to be polite and say that your way is not the only way to think. It is not relativism because I disagree with your position unless you believe in absolutism (which it appears you do).
    I actually agree with your premise that a lot of images are overdone but your premise that the image can only be made at the time of capture is one you can hold dear to your heart but you have to justify it with words to everyone else. I do encourage you to be happy with your concept.
    Your idea of photography is like having to explain a joke. If you have to explain it, it's just not working.
  26. To me, there is more than one type of photography.
    For documentary photography, it's simple, don't mess with it and try to keep it as close as you can to what you perceived was there.
    But for other types, there is no clear cut line between what's "OK" and what's not. At least to me.
    In the end, it's up to the photographer to decide what they want to present to the viewer. And it's up to the viewer to decide what they enjoy.
  27. If the real is indeed good enough, than why take pictures at all, as photography is both an addition to and subtraction from the *real*. The real just isn't, it never was.
  28. Several years ago I was out photographing during a thunderstorm. The storm blew in from the west and the clouds were menacing. It spawned a tornado a few mile to the north of me. I felt very small compared to the power in this magnificent display of nature.
    As the storm moved east, I stopped to photograph a small rural church. It sat alone in a farm field. The sun from the west lit it so it stood out from the surrounding hills. As the storm approached, the church was in the shade. The clouds on the back side of the storm were not nearly as menacing as those on the approaching side of the storm. I set up my 8x10 with the church small and low in the frame. The clouds from the storm towered over the church. But, they were not menacing. I added a red filter to darken the sky and increase contrast in the clouds.
    I knew I had a great shot, which with much darkroom manipulation could convey the feeling I had as the storm approached. I printed the base image at grade 2. I selectively burned in the clouds at grade 5. The fairly benign clouds of the pasted storm were transformed into the dark and menacing clouds. The final print conveys exactly what I wanted: The power of the storm, the vulnerability of the church or any person in the face of the storm.
    Now, the reality of the scene was much different. The storm had already passed. The clouds were retreating, not approaching the church. What I saw on the ground glass was very different from the final print. When expressing emotion in a photograph, is what was actually in the viewfinder or on the ground glass really important, or is it only a stepping stone?
    I chose B&W and burned in skies to make my point. I think it works, and so do most of the people who have seen the print. I was commissioned to do 10 photographs for a bank in a town 45 mile away. I received more comments on this photo than any other. But, is it cheating? Did I get too far away from reality? Isn't it my choice as the artist how literal I want my photos to be? I was expressing a reality--the reality of what I was feeling as the storm approached. What I photographed was quite different. Another artist may have chosen HDR to express that same emotion. I don't see how using one technique is acceptable, but using another is not. Either you express yourself well, or not.
  29. photography is, more than anything else, a craft that only a relatively few take the time to master. Still, there is no reason to dispute that photography as an art has long since established itself. You're right in sofar that photography doesn't necesarilly lead to creating art, the internet for one is inundated with enough crap to see that that's true.
    All techniques (or filters for that matter) can be used creatively and effectively, it's just that some overdo it. Isn't that one of your points here?
    Avedon didn't need to do much with this photo
    I've seen the print of that very photo earlier this year in Amsterdam and think it's awesome. Jeff is right, Avedon was meticulous if not downright obsessive about (the) printing (of) his work and it shows. It isn't exactly a BPT print. The amount of manipulation is perhaps less obvious to some and that fact alone speaks volumes of the quality of work that went into creating it.
    As for your photo Antonio,
    Here it was my intention of capturing and rendering the idea of tension at the moment players look at their cards​
    in other words you created your own reality here (by way of composing and framing) rather than capturing THE reality. So how real is real in the end? Reality at best is a very fluid concept.
  30. Allen, yours is a great example of how manipulation can be used to enhance or more accurately convey the actual mood that was "reality" when the unprocessed image seems to fall short. The difference in what you and Antonio are talking about, however, is that your efforts were an attempt to bring the viewer closer to the real, not further from it. If you had been able to capture that same mood (due to the position and tone of the clouds) without as much effort, then, well... great. But I'm guessing your success with that photograph gives you some pride in the particular effort you put into fine-tuning the printing process. Similary, Antonio seems to take pride in producing a successful image without having to do any of that.
    To me, it's just a question of subtlety. If, for example, colors are saturated to the point of it being distracting, or parts of the image are absurdly blurred, then the "effect" becomes what the photograph is about, rather than the subject. I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment that lately the ubiquity of photoshop (and others) makes for some annoyingly over-processed crap, but that's no reason to attack the validity of those techniques.
    What's the point of using HDR? I recently saw a composite panoramic landscape shot which used 15 exposures. The resultant image was fantastic, but mainly because I didn't realize until i read the caption that it was an HDR. The technique was used to properly show shadow and highlight detail which would be closer to what the human eye could see. The panoramic view was the star of that image, not the "effect".
    Antonio, i really do applaud your effort to question what photography is and should be, and i know you've taken a bit of a beating in this thread, but i have to agree with the majority on this one.
  31. Study up on the history of photography. People thought about it in many different ways before the F/64 group came along, and everyone got shoved into the small box of south west landscape realism. Of course the idea that they were "straight" photographers that didn't manipulate their work is a myth too. It took AA many years to get Moonrise to print like he wanted. Those crosses didn't shine on the neg like they did to his eyes, so he used a brush and bleach. He had to fix it in the darkroom, as they say. Read his biography for the details.
    HCB had his style. Other famous photographers had their own. Here's what Steichen had to say at the very beginning of the 20th century. Film was a new technology as young as digital is today. It made photography so easy anyone could do it, and all sorts of imaginative people were getting involved, and ticking off the old fogies.
    "It is rather amusing, this tendency of the wise to regard a print which has been locally manipulated as irrational photography – this tendency which finds an aesthetic tone of expression in the word faked. A manipulated print may be not a photograph. The personal intervention between the action of the light and the print itself may be a blemish on the purity of photography. But, whether this intervention consists merely of marking, shading and tinting in a direct print, or of stippling, painting and scratching on the negative, or of using glycerin, brush and mop on a print, faking has set in, and the results must always depend upon the photographer, upon his personality, his technical ability and his feeling. BUT long before this stage of conscious manipulation has been begun, faking has already set in. In the very beginning, when the operator controls and regulates his time of exposure, when in dark-room the developer is mixed for detail, breadth, flatness or contrast, faking has been resorted to. In fact, every photograph is a fake from start to finish, a purely impersonal, unmanipulated photograph being practically impossible. When all is said, it still remains entirely a matter of degree and ability." - Edward Steichen
    It's shame what 100+ years of dropping film off for automated machines to process and print has done to the creativity of photographers. Personally I'm glad to see folks getting involved in their own processing and printing and imagination again.
  32. Everybody with a camera and a computer is an instant "artist". It's done because it can be done, and people largely don't care about the connection with reality. It could be done with film in the past also, even a century ago, but the difference was that only a few people could do that since it was hard to do.
    In a world where people enjoy reality TV, go gaga over phoney celebrities, get their current affairs opinions from comedy shows, and communicate in 140 characters or less, you can't expect much maturity.
  33. Photography can be a visual art. It can also be journalism, documentation or illustration.
  34. I think the bigger issue here is that with our ability to heavily manipulate (and as Pierre says, this has been around a long time but in the past it was not so easy to do) a photograph, we have started to confuse people as to what is "real" and what is not in a photograph. Used to be, when people saw a photo, it was documented truth - but now, photos can be heavily faked for artistic purposes so the perception that a photo is documented truth is no longer valid.
    For me, my mission as a photographer has always been to try and capture a scene as closely as possible to how it actually appeared at the time I shot it, so I do as little post processing as possible and never manipulate it enough to change the actual scene. I do admire the artistic stuff others are doing and I think they are still photography (some people don't - they think once you manipulate a photo it belongs to some other art form) but it's just not something I do.
    So, the answer to the OPs original question is yes, reality is usually good enough for me.
  35. Of course, this kind of question goes back a long, long time... to before the Adams/Mortenson warfare.
    Photography is just a recording medium. The art is in what we make it. Unlike other artforms which start with nothing and gradually add some measure of reality, photography starts with a recording of reality and then removes some reality out of it. The latter is art to those who like that. On the other hand, it can be argued that since it's just a recording medium, the real art of photography might lie in the finding of art in reality. At the very least, it's harder to do it that way than to create it on a computer screen.
  36. I will need to read everything from the beginning because I am loosing myself a little here... The discussion is getting more intense and intellectually challenging than I thought (interesting though). I have been thinking about what many of you have said and it helped me to revisit some of my thoughts. Don't forget that I started this thread by saying "I would like to free my polemical and inquiring mind", knowing that I would have hit a wall with many of you on this matter but hitting walls can help find the right answers. Before I go through all comments again, I would like to go back to the opening post: I will rephrase the word "real". Why photography is becoming so excessively made up? Avedon's picture might have gone through detailed darkroom editing but it sure doesn't show that, at least that's not what the author seems to be wanting to point out. Today, I see the make up becoming more and more the necessary step in order to be graphically and artistically more effective and I think this tendency is excessive, that's all. Even in my professional field, classical music, you see "effect" on stage and "carisma" or presence becoming more important than the music itself; important is the impression an artist has on his public more than the music he plays and this is disinformation and the opposite of what culture should do. I finish playing and, outside, I hear people talking about how good and exciting the conductor was and nobody talking about the music.
    Antonio, i really do applaud your effort to question what photography is and should be, and i know you've taken a bit of a beating in this thread, but i have to agree with the majority on this one.​
    Thank you for your words. I am not worried about the beating, I accept in advance the idea that I could be completely off track. However, I believe it is important to raise such questions and I don't think we ever do it enough. I think photography is very difficult to define and and that's why arguing is inevitable. After all, Roland Barthes went crazy trying to find the essence of photography. So, I am the first one here to express doubt and the exact contrary of certainty but still questions need to be raised, or we can just stop thinking and follow the flow.
  37. Regarding HDR. Use of HDR reminds me of the zoom effects which were much in vogue in the late 70s and early 80s. Affordable zooms came on the market and suddenly large numbers of photographers had a new toy to experiment with. Most of their efforts were pure kitsch. But a few used the technique to great effect. Today, the technique is seldom used, but still available.
    HDR is not one of my favorite effects. I think that it is generally overdone and detracts from most photos. Nevertheless, I have seen some photographs which work. In particular, I have seen a number of cityscapes taken at dusk which were then given the HDR treatment. The prints have an energy about them. The vibrancy and electricity of the urban setting comes through. The technique, when properly applied, adds to the photograph; it allows the artist to express an idea more clearly than other techniques.
    I guess I have a real problem with photographs having to reflect reality. What reality? The scene as seen by the photographer or the feeling the artist wants to convey. Ansel Adams talks about this with his photograph Moon over Half Dome. It was early in his career and as he saw the scene, he realized that if he added a red filter, he could convey not the literal, but how he felt about the scene. He was able, for the first time, to envision the print and how to express it before pressing the shutter.
    I have never done HDR. But, I would consider it for the right shot. A few years ago I photographed the front of my wife's favorite restaurant in Paris. The shot came out great and my wife liked the print. (I satisfied my audience). Nevertheless, I was a bit disappointed in the shot because it didn't capture the vitality of the street or the excitement of Paris. Perhaps HDR would do that for me.
    This whole thread started with the question "Is the real not good enough?" The short answer is "No." Sometimes it is not good enough. When we move from shooting the literal to expressing emotion, sometimes reality needs a boost. The boost may come from discarding all color information and printing in black and white. The boost may come from enhancing the colors. The boost may come from shooting infrared film. It may come from adding a red filter. It may come from using HDR.
    Any of these techniques may enhance the artist's expression, or they may detract from it. That is decided on a case by case basis. But I'm not going to condemn all use of HDR simply because right now most people who experiment with it fail to use it effectively.
  38. Matt
    Thank you for the Steichen quote, very interesting. I don't know if you noticed but in my OP I said "The real is already so beautiful and spectacular, we just have to find the best way to capture IT on film." The best way is for me the most pure and respectful of the essence of the moment being observed. I agree with Steichen on the fact that it is impossible to create an non-manipulated photograph and I say that I would like to get the closest possible to non-manipulation in order to spoil the least the purity of the essence. Just like I believe a musician should be careful not to spoil the character of a piece with his own personality. Sometimes we confuse looking at an idea or a concept with looking at some artist's work; the artist wants to express a concept, not show how good he is. Difficult, difficult... This conversation is very complicated because I realize that using even one wrong word can change the sense of ideas. I wish I could write in Italian.
  39. Allen
    his whole thread started with the question "Is the real not good enough?" The short answer is "No." Sometimes it is not good enough.​
    Agree and I think I can answer that by inviting you to read my previous two comments. "Real" is the wrong word, I would rephrase with purity of essence or something.
  40. Why the modifier? Can't a photograph be successful expressing the essence--how do we distinguish "purity of essence" from essence? It seems to me you are falling back into the trap that there are certain genuine or real ways to express something. Those are the ways you except and all others are unclean.
    I wonder, how do you express tension in a photograph? You did that to some success in the photo posted above. Someone else may choose a different approach. Both are valid ways to express the idea. One may work and one may fail, but it is the artist's decision on what means to use to communicate.
    If we move to expressing emotion or feeling, then we are expressing our reaction to something. If I choose a certain technique, it either helps or hinders my expression of that feeling. The technique itself is not "pure" or "unclean" in any way. It is just a technique. It either works or it doesn't. It may work for some and fail miserably for others.
    How do you express love in a photograph? Does it have to be a woman nursing a baby? Can you do it with warm colors alone? How do you express vibrancy in a photograph? How do you express awe? How do you express hatred? How do you express dread? How about embarrassment? How about...
  41. "Visual art and photography are not the same; visual art is art and photography is something else (I don't really know what...)."
    Antonio, I sympathise with your OP and the quote (regarding the often very unsuccessful "enhancing" effects of photographic post production), but with the considerable exception of your line above.
    You cannot compare visual art and photography. Its apples and oranges. You can however compare brush or other painting, or sculpting, with photography, or with each other. All three can attempt either art (creation, not simple reproduction) or realism. Painting once was used to record events (coronations, wars, classification of plant or animal types, etc.), not necessarily as visual art. I have a sculptor friend who makes casts from vegetables (e.g., broccoli) and reproduces them as bronze casts. He is attempting realism, but realism shown in a different way (art?) than what is seen, by changing media. Same for a B&W photograph. The attempt may be to reproduce reality, or not, but the B&W image is in fact abstract to our normal way of seeing things (Have a look at some of my B&W film photos and prints if you wish. Some, such as the tree images, are not interpretations of reality, in my mind).
    Although many of my images do not escape an "apparent-intention-a-realism", I would not photograph at all unless I felt that I had an opportunity to use the camera and light as a sort of paint brush, to interpret what I see (often details of life) in a different and intentionally non-realistic way.
    Photography, like sculpting and painting is but a tool. It can be used to attempt a near realistic account of what is perceived, but it can be used also as a springboard for personal creation of images that somehow have moved us personally, and are also distinct from reality.
    When done successfully, photography is in my mind an undeniable visual art.
  42. Allen
    I think we cannot create anything with photography, or express anything; we can only capture something that already holds expressivity, or tension, or love etc. I believe you are mixing painting with photography and they are not the same thing. The strange and freaky thing about photography that doesn't exist in painting is the light of people and things that impresses a piece of material; it's almost like the existing being sucked in onto a piece of celluloid. You know how some cultures believe that photography can capture your soul?
    Now, to respond to your questions: I express any emotion or concept by capturing something that ALREADY holds that emotion or that concept. Editing after that might be necessary but not of primary importance to express anything that isn't already captured in the negative. Instead, a photo that doesn't capture emotion will NEVER express emotion, whatever is the editing you do; unless you totally transform it into something else.
  43. Arthur
    I am glad someone understands my point (about editing), I don't feel alone anymore... :) As far as photography vs any other art form, I will answer you with the first paragraph from my previous comment. And with words from an earlier comment
    The art in photography does not lay in the technical and visual aspect, but in the mental and emotional process the photographer does when he visualizes and takes a shot. That's why it is not "visual" art, because it is "emotional" and "mental" art​
    That's why editing is superficial, IMO. The artistic process happens BEFORE the shutter is released, not after.
  44. What about the example of the storm I posted above. I certainly didn't capture the power and intensity of the storm that had passed. It was gone. It was no longer visible. But the photograph certainly conveys that feeling.
  45. Allen
    I missed your shot, I would like to see it. Can you post a link to it?
  46. No. I have never scanned it and the 20x24original is hanging in a bank miles away from here. I described it in a post above.
  47. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    That's why editing is superficial, IMO. The artistic process happens BEFORE the shutter is released, not after.​

    That makes no sense at all. Mental and emotional processes happen at any point in the process. There's no time limit on emotional response. A negative or unprocessed image can spur specific emotions that result in ways to process. Look closely at Avedon's work, he was the master of processing.
  48. This is why I hate debating the meaning of art. It always turns into an abstract mess of vague concepts and platitudes.
    Antonio, your comparison of photography and classical music is interesting. I think it would be more appropriate to compare photography and audio recording rather than performance. In which case, how often do you think a track is released, completely untouched or unedited. No effects, not even compression. Nothing. The genre doesn't really matter.
    Our equipment, both audio and optical, isn't perfect. It cannot capture reality perfectly. In order to achieve that illusion, we have to massage the raw data (film negative, digital file, or audio track) into something that tricks the eye or ear into thinking it's seeing or hearing reality.
    Of course, there are times when the goal isn't necessarily to achieve the illusion of reality. If you want to really get philosophical though, what is reality? What you can see, hear, taste, and touch? Are we talking about the absolute truth? The former is sort of irrelevant when it comes to taking a photograph, isn't it? It's not about what you saw, it's what you want the viewer to see. As far as absolute truth relates to photography, if you can find it with your camera, consider yourself the greatest photographer of all time.
  49. "The art in photography does not lay in the technical and visual aspect, but in the mental and emotional process the photographer does when he visualizes and takes a shot. That's why it is not "visual" art, because it is "emotional" and "mental" art"
    "That's why editing is superficial, IMO. The artistic process happens BEFORE the shutter is released, not after."
    I think I know where you are coming from, but I find the argument you give is only fragmentary. Do you really think that when I "visualise" an image to be photographerd I am not creating visual art? (RE: your first quote above)
    Mental and emotional processes strongly occur in other art forms, not just in photography. The difference may only be that they are spread out over the initial visualisation by the painter (in front of his blank canvass or at some point prior to starting the work) and the process that is on-going as he paints his canvass (up to the last retouching before varnishing).
    I disagree very strongly that there is no creation after the shutter is fired. You should accompany a black and white photographer as he takes a negative and prints it in his darkroom. That is often a lengthy proccess, certainly one that this punctuated with additional visualisation and modification of successive test prints until the final print and conception is realised. Analogous creation (of an artistic image, not just an overblown photoshopped image that often might only degrade what was there) can be undertaken on the computer, where the artist (photographer) is doing something similar to what might have been done in the darkroom. As long as the expression then is artistic, the artistic photographic image does not end simply with the firing of a shutter.
    I think you are taking a too limited view of the potential of photography, and certainly as as an artistic medium. Yes, it can be abused, but that is no reason to deny that it can allow art creation, a process that occurs before, during, and after exposure.
  50. Antonio, I want to go back to your post above: "I think we cannot create anything with photography, or express anything; we can only capture something that already holds expressivity, or tension, or love etc. I believe you are mixing painting with photography and they are not the same thing. The strange and freaky thing about photography that doesn't exist in painting is the light of people and things that impresses a piece of material; it's almost like the existing being sucked in onto a piece of celluloid. You know how some cultures believe that photography can capture your soul?"
    This is where we fundamentally disagree on what photography is and on what it can be. To me photography can be a wonderfully expressive medium. I can create something, an idea, an emotion or a feeling and convey that photographically. I could use paint or sculpture to convey the same (or at least a very similar idea), but I chose to do it with photography.
    Let me give you two examples. I have two photographs which I want to take. Please note, these photographs exist no where but in my mind.
    Let's start with the more concrete example: I plan to photograph this in the spring. I have some technical issues (and a couple of conceptual ones) to work out, so the execution of the photo will have to wait. A woman sits at a table. Two candles have burned 3/4 of the way down. The table is set for two, but only her wine glass has wine in it. It is half full. Only her bread plate contains the crumbs of a half eaten baguette. On the table lays a note. Because of the angle, the viewer is not able to read the note. The woman rests the finger tips of her left hand on the edge of the note. She lightly grips the stem of her wine glass with the other hand. Her expression is blank. No smile, no frown. She looks off in the distance--out of the frame.
    To photograph this scene, I will have to create it. I have a model who lives about 60 miles away who fits my vision for the shot. I plan to use in-camera Ilfochrome. I plan to make the image 50 x 62 inches ( I'm building the camera and assembling the lens for it currently.) I am experimenting with lighting to get the Ilfochrome colors to turn out the way I want.
    My intent with this photograph is to be a mirror for the viewer--particularly female viewers. Some will look on the scene and see a woman dinning alone who brought something to read to pass the time. Others will look on it and see a woman jilted by her lover. Others will see the woman as waiting for her lover, friend or spouse. A few will see the ambiguity in the scene and realize that it could be this, it may be that.
    The conceptual ideas I have to work out are what color and type of dress will she wear. A virginal white dress conveys a different message than a black cocktail dress. A grey business suit conveys yet another message. Even the title of the work will effect the viewers perception. "Woman waiting" vs. "jilted lover' vs. "untitled."
    This photo does not exist. I will be creating it wholly from my imagination. I could paint it, but this is one place where the perceived "real" of photography works in my favor--it is less abstract than a painting. I decided up front to do this big. I don't think the print would have the same impact in 8x10.
    Will I accomplish my goal? I won't know until the image is viewed. I will have expressed what I wanted, but will my communication of that be understood? We'll see.
    But the point here is that I have an artistic vision in my mind that I want to express. I have decided on the elements to include and those to exclude. I have envisioned the final work. I choose photography as the means of expression. Now it is only a matter of execution as to whether I achieve it.
    Number two, more abstract. I have been accumulating a number of flash lights which can be focused to different sizes. If I focus one on the wall from a foot away, I can adjust the beam from a pinpoint to a circle several inches across. My intent is to use these to explore the emotional impact of color and shape. I plan to stand in front of a sheet of 50x62 inch Ilfochrome and shine the light on the paper. I will cover the flashlight ends with different colored filters.
    By pointing the light directly at the paper, I will make circles. By pointing them obliquely, I can vary the shape. Moving the light across the paper will create a slash or a line.
    Colors and shapes have emotional weight. One print made with circles (womanly, think breasts) with warn colors--red, yellow, burgundy, wine-- will have a very different feel from one made with blue and black and silver and slashes and lines.
    The final photograph exist no where. There is nothing i can point to in nature or on the street and say "this as my subject." What is the subject? Light, color and form. The arrangement of those will determine the success or failure of the photograph.
    Again, I could paint something similar. But I chose to express myself photographically.
  51. Jeff, Arthur
    The communicative power of a shot is expressed by the subject and the way the photographer captures it. Anything after that is just a craft. Cartier-Bresson apparently never printed an image himself, because (he says) he was not interested in the darkroom part, that was done by a trusted person that very well knew what Bresson liked. So, I am glad that at least HCB comes in my help here. He clearly divided the two moments of creating a photograph and I totally agree with him. I love darkroom work but nothing compares to the seeing and executing, and knowing that you got the shot right. This is creative for me, anything after that is a craft that can be learned by anyone.
  52. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Cartier-Bresson was exactly one person. I assume you are pointing to him because your last example, Avedon, was dead wrong. Avedon, like many of the greatest photographers of the film era, was into heavy post-shoot manipulation, like Moriyama, Mortensen, Giacomelli, Meatyard, Klein, etc. etc. HCB doing something one way means nothing for photography as a whole.
  53. I love darkroom work but nothing compares to the seeing and executing, and knowing that you got the shot right. This is creative for me, anything after that is a craft that can be learned by anyone.​
    Imagination is not a craft, execution of imagination is.
    " I believe in the imagination. What I cannot see is infinitely more important than what I can see."
    -Duane Michals
  54. ( Avedon did mention HCB as being his photographic hero, 'worshipping' him )
  55. Arthur
    As I said in my previous comment taking as an example HC Bresson, I consider darkroom technique just a craft and nothing artistic. I develop and print my own shots and I have never felt creative in a darkroom, although I have a lot of fun doing it. There is no creation there, just chemistry and physics.
    I think what you have described with two very detailed examples is totally a creative process. Sorry, I forgot to mention that everything I said before refers to unplanned photography. I don't do or like the type of photography where everything is planned out and kept under the photographer's control but I certainly respect it and whom does it. For me planning everything out is like recording music in a studio; everything can be perfect and under your control but you miss the adrenaline of the performance. Celibidache (Romanian philosopher, mathematician and musician) used to say that music exists only when you perform it and he always refused to do studio recordings.
  56. "There is no creation there, just chemistry and physics."
    I cannot disagree more with you. You are entitled to your view, of course.
    I know of some musicians who are afraid to deviate from the composer's score. Klemperer and Stokowski were immensely diferent interpreters of the same material. A negative is like a musical score, it is not a reality until interpreted in the darkroom or Lightroom. Someinterpretations can be artistic, powerful, others just straight prints (the latter the chemistry and physics interpretation).
    H-CB chose not to print his own images, possibly in part because his itinerary was not conducive or the pressure to produce "decisive moments" in his journalistic work was too great. He is not a good example of the complete photographer, although his eye and mind clearly surpassed what most would do in his position. He gave up photography for sketching and painting, which he found more fulfilling
  57. Phylo
    I meant seeing what normally we don't see.
    You seem to know a whole lot about history, technique and all but you never really engage philosophically. Bresson was just one guy but he happened to be Avedon's hero (if what Phylo says is correct...), and probably many others'.
  58. Arthur
    Interpreters have of course each their own personality and different ways to see the same score but they should never remember that they are not creators, just sensitive and intelligent musicians whose job is to make the music alive for the listener. There is a limit to where interpretation can go. There aren't many ways to interpret Mozart, unless you're doing some crossover. When the composer (creator) wrote a piece, he had in mind a very specific idea that MUST be rendered when performing it. Beethoven writes on the first page of the Pastoral: "more emotion than painting". The Pastoral is the expression of human emotions in front of the spectacle of nature, with some metaphoric references to the historical time, and the conductor must perform it trying to feel that idea. Timber, tone, tempo, change from interpreter to interpreter but there is a limit to personal interpretation or we fall into the trap of relativism. Again, Chelibidache said that "Beethoven 9th Symphony has never been played", I'll let you think about the meaning of this statement.
  59. Well Antonio, you sure could have mentioned that earlier in the discussion!!!
    Again I disagree. To me it is like composing the music. I write the symphony in my head and then set it down on paper. But then, this whole discussion seems to come down to you don't like something, so you have to try to justify your dislike and convince others that they should also dislike it. So far, you have yet to provide a philosophical basis for your initial statements and the revisions you have made to them. Good luck in your search for the "truth."
  60. Allen
    I think I have expressed my vision, you are free to disagree with it but this is what drives me to take pictures and I strongly believe in my ideas. Maybe I will change my mind in the future but for now I believe photography's mission is not to create emotion but to capture it. I will surely never stop searching for the "truth", even if it doesn't exist.
  61. Truth. Avedon - keeping to one of Antonio's examples, said that all photographs are accurate and none of them tell the truth.
    I meant seeing what normally we don't see.​
    Yes, and ? As per your OP, you still mean seeing with the eyes, regardless if it's something seen what we normally don't see. I meant with the Duane Michals quote that photography can be seeing with the mind's eye or imagination too, prior or after the exposure is being made.
    In the end there's the photograph, either it works or it doesn't. How the photographer got to it ( material, process ) is mostly irrelevant to most ( non-photographer ) viewers.
  62. Antonio,
    Film and digital sensors cannot ever do what the human visual system does with dynamic range, focusing near and far in a scene, colors, and interpretation, which is always going on moment to moment, connecting visual stimuli with emotions, memories and thoughts. We have always tried to improve on the camera's ability to capture a scene by playing with exposure and development, dodging and burning, etc. Now with digital we have HDR, PS, etc. What I am hearing you say is that you want to leave your captured images "as is" as far as how the film or sensor captures them, and to not use techniques that "muscle up" the image in order to "create a reality better than the original." What I think is that reality is never actually duplicated no matter what we do, and even our visual system and brain do a lot of interpretation. I think this is why so many interpretations of actual scenes are created by different photographers. Each person has a different interpretation in his or her mind to start with.
    Your example of the card players looks to me like a classic interpretation of black and white film with a 35mm camera. I'm positive reality did not look exactly like that. For instance, your eye would automatically dilate whenever you looked at a dark area of the scene and "stop down" when glancing at a bright area. In other words to the human visual system the interpretation is dynamic and ever changing, instant by instant. What you remember is necessarily a composite of selected images. If you want to stick with the limitations of simple film capture that is your artistic prerogative, but many photographers like to try to alter their original capture to make it look more the way they saw it at the time, or what they remember, or to even alter it artistically to make the mood stronger or whatever. Its their prerogative too.
    Your argument also reminds me of the arguments people use to justify shooting only in jpg or color slides in order to forcibly limit the amount post production and they demand that you must "get it right in the camera," else you are only lazy; or the folks who refuse to crop because they also feel you must "get it right" in the frame, etc. These are all self imposed limitations that strike me as a personality trait tending towards rigid thinking and inflexibility.
  63. Try absorbing the meaning of these poems:
    What is real and what isn't?
    What about beyond our little planet. Now some are suggesting so called "dark" matter occupies the majority of the universe.
    Yes, as the poem says, red is grey, yellow white, you decide which is right and which is an illusion.
  64. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I believe photography's mission is not to create emotion but to capture it.​
    How did you become the person to define that?
  65. Steve
    I will most welcome a camera that sees like the human eye. The muscling up I don't understand is the one that tries to create a good image out of a dull one or overcharges an already good shot to make it even stronger. Is there a social reason for that? In a historic moment where appearance is everything, photography seems to be very "apparent" and made up as well. The quality of a photo doesn't depend on equipment, just like the quality of violin playing doesn't depend on the violin. Maybe there are influences that photographers follow in order to be on the market or something, I don't know. I am not a photography expert and actually I don't like to define myself as a photographer. I am an observer and I see a lot of unnecessary show-off everywhere.
    I don't think my argument reflects rigid thinking but firm belief in my ideas. I don't want you guys to convince me that I'm wrong by pointing out my doubts or contradictions or historic gaps, I just want you to engage philosophically in the conversation if you like it and you think it's worth discussion and expose your vision.
  66. Jeff
    By thinking a lot about it to the point that I drove my wife crazy and she got really pissed. I really believe that and I need to defend this idea until I will find a better definition. It's just a philosophical inquire.
  67. The muscling up I don't understand is the one that tries to create a good image out of a dull one or overcharges an already good shot to make it even stronger.​
    Antonio, I think the crux of the issue that you are referring to is this idea that some people are altering their images "too much." I agree that many images are over produced with heavy handed photo shop techniques. This is common these days and there is nothing we can do about it. Some people like it. I do believe that the opposite is true as well, that many people simply don't know how to make the best out of their images. This takes skill and practice. In the dark room days one had to learn how to choose the best print paper, how to dodge and burn during the printing, how to use toning, etc. If you didn't do these things you would not be making the best of your negatives. Ansel Adams said that the negative was like the score in music, and the print was the performance. This is still true. Many of my own digital images are altered quite a bit in order to bring out the best in them. I don't think they look "muscled up" but they are much better than if I had done nothing. For example take this one: I actually used a program that did what is called "tone mapping" which highly altered the dynamic range of the values in this image. Compared to a so called straight rendition it is very different. But, without seeing them side by side this one does not look "muscled up" but it does look better. So it seems to be a matter of to what degree is an image altered. This is of course a matter of individual taste. I guess you just have to be satisfied with your own values.
  68. Steve
    Compliments on the photo first of all, it is a very good one. That's not the muscling up I'm talking about; you probably used the tone mapping tool to better balance shadows and lights and you did a great job but that's normal editing and you didn't alter the scene to create a more "dramatic" effect by powering up the clouds and stuff. That is a scene as we probably would see it with our own eyes. The excessive editing I'm talking about is the one that alters reality just to make the image more striking to the eye.
  69. The excessive editing I'm talking about is the one that alters reality just to make the image more striking to the eye.
    The only photos that I can think of that don't fundamentally "alter reality" would be accurate copies of other photographs. Do you think that the man in HC-B's photograph Behind the Gare St. Lazare was actually floating, suspended in the air? Do you think that witnessing the guy leaping across the puddle would have been as striking as the photo of him suspended above it?
  70. david_henderson


    The essence of this issue seems to be that the OP doesn't accept that photography is a medium with many alternative forms, just like painting, writing, music and so on. Not all painting is or ever was artistic in intent. The guy that paints my house is very good but I'd imagine that not even his mother considers him an artist. The purpose of something written can vary from a very simple communication (Don't Walk) to something entirely set down from the imagination to provide stimulus and pleasure.
    And so, pretty obviosly is the case with photography. The OP isn't getting that some photography is considered by its creators, its audience and its industry to be artistic, and that a lot of it is not; that a lot of folk simply don't accept that reality is the sole goal and constraint. Art demands a personal input of creativity whereas some other photography demands less or none. Our choice is whether to like this "creative" input or not, rather than assessing its validity.
    Art does not have to be good art, and what the originator may consider to be creative others might think of as being derivative or imitation. Personally if i see any more HDR seascapes with artificially darkened skies and increased saturation I think I'll hurl. But that doesn't mean that I can't see, appreciate and sometimes enjoy a piece of photographic creativity, whether generated behing the camera or in the darkroom or lightroom later. The process of creativity can continue, at the artists sole discretion, until he lets the work go. Complaining about editing in post is akin to denying the poet the right to re-write a verse, the painter to change his mind and paint over, whatever. Not all of those decisions are right, but its never correct to say that the originator didn't have the right to make them.
    IMO the cause of the OP's angst is a strait- jacket of his own manufacture- he's simply not seeing a camera as being like a pencil.
  71. I, of all people, am obviously not opposed to manipulation or image editing. However, I am always interested in trying to understand other points of view or attitudes -- and I am feeling a growing admiration for Antonio's willingness to keep returning to and attempting to clarify his stance.
    It's my feeling that perhaps the core issue that Antonio is struggling to locate is that what he would like (and, I will add, what I always like in good art) is for the meaning, impact, effect -- whatever you like to call your relationship with a good picture -- to come (or should *seem* to come) from *within* the image. It should seem to be unified/one. The thing should seem to be an indivisible whole; of a part. If/when editing seems to have been applied from *without* the image, then it can break the image. Wherever a picture seems to be been riven into "content" and then "process," where there is an apparent or noticeable divide, then I think it reveals the screen; breaks the effect. (Leaving aside art that is *about* breaking the screen ...)
  72. Julie, Antonio,
    What you call "editing" is for some artists and photographers simply a part of the on-going artistic approach. A distinction must be made.
    In regard to the Beethoven 9th interpretation quote, no inteterpretation of any original score can be considered truly as being definitive, even those conducted by the composer (which obviously the deaf Beethoven might have only done partially). Leonard Cohen would probably agree that even his own renditions of "Bird on a Wire" may not have been as definitive as intended (as most artists want always to improve their work) and it is true that he has changed his versions in recent concerts (a consequence too of his changing abilities and approach as a performer). But here we are in general talking about musicians reproducing someone else's score. While not denying the efforts of some great musical interpretors, it is rather different from the challenge of the artist-sculptor, artist-painter or artist-photographer.
    In the final analysis, you can simply accept that or reject the whole artuistic process and the role of post production as an element (whether the narrow definition of "chemistry and pgysics" of darkroom work or lightroom activity), according to your own approach on the issue. Painting also involves chemistry and physics (nature of media, liquid and solid, drying behaviour, mixing of media, texture, etc.), whereas sculpting stone is primarily mechanical in activity (or "physics"), althoughthe chemistry or mineralogy of the stone affects the result. In other words, all visual art implies some relation to the physical sciences.
    I feel this discussion is missing something very important, which is a wise recognition that, among other things that allow opening up of the mind to possibilities, art does not have any bounds, and art can be created in many different ways.
    Closing ones mind about that simply reminds me of the type of polarised opinion one finds all too often in political debate.
    I do not think that that the question of "is real not good enough" has any relation to art in photography but perhaps does to photography as a simple recording medium.
  73. It's just the modern form of photography. Back in the day people made photos that were pretty normal as they just snapped off the shot and off to the lab. What you see is what you get back. Some photographers took it to a different level and bought a lot of stuff and learned skills in how to fix up their photos, print their photos and so on. The skills were out of the ball park for the average photographer. Now with the DSLR point and shoot camera's and photoshop a little kid can whip up a fantasy picture and have fun doing it. People like to see them and say the magic word "Wow". It's the deal these days. The good thing is if you want your photos to look different then you can also achieve a look that pleases you. Probably a nice film like Elitechrome will render a close to natural picture for someone that wants that. Currently I am having fun with B/W film. I have never felt that B/W photogrphy was realistic at all. Probably what I will stick with from now on with some color family shots here and there. With 6 kids I have a lot of events to shoot.
  74. What is "real"?
    nowadays we are bombarded with reality and with sensations.
    There's nothing really "new" coming up. Global communication networks and transport means allow us to produce "tons of reality" flooding us even if we don't ask for it.
    We see wars, slaughters, disasters, illness, beautiful places, remote places. In addition, everybody is a potential input terminal for this immense "reality exchange".
    Not everybody can compose music, not everybody can paint or sketch, not everybody can act.
    But everybody can take a camera and take a picture, or a video-camera and film a scene. And broadcast it.
    Everybody can take a computer and tinker with images
    I see a lot of visually strong images that are "muscled up" by heavy digital editing as to create a reality that is better than the original.​
    Most of the time the process is mixed up with the result. The fact that you can buy a (video)camera, release the shutter, post-process, doesn't make you a photographer, a videographer, or even less an artist.
    Provided that there is information overflow, there is an overproduction of stimuli to our senses.
    And our senses are numbed. This is a normal human reaction to over-stimulation. Trying to produce an outstanding photo just cranking up the colours is not a solution, it is just a further step in over-stimulation.
    To counter this anaesthetisation we produce even stronger stimuli: brighter contrasts, sparkling colours, etc. making us and our viewers even number.
    The solution to me is reconnecting the process with the result and the development of visual capabilities to understand this result. Adopting a less consumerist approach and starting thinking:
    • About the photos we see, taking time to watch them.
    • About the photos we make, considering how we take them, if the result is what we intended and deciding if their visual message is really that good. And maybe throw them away instead of bothering our fellow humans.
  75. I was doing darkroom printing 35 years ago. I would like to correct the often misconceived example being given that this equated with manipulation. It may have for some, but most people just wanted to make their own prints from what was on the negative. They were not manipulating anything.
  76. Pierre,
    Very true. Its like writing a simple trip report compared to writing a book. When I was a student, I had to print pictures of fellow students during a teachers strike and simply produced straight prints. Like the writing example, you can do darkroom work at any level of interest and creativity. Whatever suits.
  77. It may be true that individuals (including some very famous ones) were and are making straight prints ("You Push the Button, Let Kodak do The Rest"), but manipulation in photographic printing was extensive and common among professionals and amateurs alike back in the 1800's.Things like printing in skies, moving trees, hills, inserting and removing people, head swaps, backgrounds, etc.
  78. Having read all through the thread, one quote stands out:
    I need to defend this idea until I will find a better definition. It's just a philosophical inquire.​
    Antonio, if you do an inquiry, don't defend your idea. If you want to defend your idea, don't ask others for their opinion. You keep making this thread go in circles this way. It does ask a nice question, but now, it keeps coming back to your view all the time. It's not doing the discussion, the people who share their insights and ideas, and free flow of ideas, any justice. If people disagree with you, it does not mean they did not understand you. It means they disagree.
    Like some aired before, the premise is wrong. What is reality, and if it exists, who defines what it is anyway?If you rephrase it to 'the essence of things', nothing changes. Do things have an essence? Are they inmutable entities, or is the eye of the beholder the defining factor?
    The extend of manipulation, the ease of doing it, possible ethical debate on alterations, whether it affects the ability to be art of not - it has got nothing to do with reality, essence or capturing something 'as it was'. The original image is not reality, it is an image. Even a clean straight print is not reality - the photographer already morphed it into what he wanted to see while framing the image.
    Or a nasty simple example: let a colourblind person take a photo, and no matter what, the result will not be what (s)he saw. You would need to manipulate to make the picture fit their perception of reality again.
  79. What's real anyway? there is not blunt reality in photography, it's all about your prespective; how you choose your angle, your frame and how to approach your subject. Photography is how you manipulate the visual realm surrounding you. I spent a lot of time neglecting digital advancements, and focusing on minimally edited photographs, however you should always present your work in the best possible way even with manipulation, old days photographers, used tricks to edit their work with the available material and film evironment. Now when you display your work on the internet, it shows differently, you customize it to present it the way you think is best.
    But for me a heavily edited photograph with beautiful colors that look fake, bland portraits and simply technically correct images is something I can't react to. I accepted long ago that there are types of artists, one has a stronger point than the other, one is a spontaneous photographer with clever right on time shots, one is good with HDR, the other is a still life person, one is more oriented to graphics but what matters is the feel it gives.
  80. It's a bit amusing to me how some of the earlier posts described subsequent modification of a latent image (whether sensor captured or on film) as something simply of technical intent - whether that is related to expanding the dynamic range, changing contrast, improving shadow or highlight detail, correcting colour casts, righting verticals or perspective, sharpening, removing noise or dust spots, or whatever.
    Is there no room for a continued modification with an artistic intent? I don't mean by this the adding of clouds where there are none, or the removal of telephone polls or wires, but the modidfication of the image just as a painter might do in evolving his work in progress. Few worry about what brush size or type the painter uses, or the nature of medium or paint overlays, varnish type or methodology of obtaining a specific texture. Why then should we worry, first that a photograph is not seeking to represent reality, or secondly, that he uses the various means at his disposal for evolving the work beyond the initial capture. Its the result that counts, if the intention is art. As has been pointed out, art is not often some gross exaggeration of reality via Photoshop coloration (yes, the two can be the same in some rare cases).
  81. .. if real is the documentary pic you're after, then sure, the pic is ' good enough '.
    ..a camera is like an instrument (eg. musical) with which you compose, shoot, edit, create, output to your heart's desire.. as there are varied types of music, there are also varied types of photography. from simple color n white balanced realistic documentary pics to fine art aesthetic pleasing decor pics.
    ..pick your potion,
  82. Van Gogh was an impressionist, not a realist. He painted in the style that was popular during his short lifetime (although, he was not popular himself).
    Your photographs are your own. Do with them as you please. One person might be happy pushing digital editing to its creative limits. Another person might prefer only a dash of optimization. Who cares? We're all free to express our vision as we wish.
  83. PPhylo Dayrin
    "If the real is indeed good enough, than why take pictures at all, as photography is both an addition to and subtraction from the *real*. The real just isn't, it never was."
    Also, through its very definition, the term 'photography' has a broad spectrum of interpretation and allows for many genres, including 'visual arts' in the form of photo manipulation amongst others. A photograph can be about something else other than the reality of what it depicts. Photography in the form or reality and unrealistic interpretations of that reality can co-exist within the same definition
  84. Dan, if nobody "cares" why shoot photos at all and especially why share them. Close down places like Photonet and leave "reality" to itself then - whatever that means.
  85. I suggest that the OP read Art X's comment, as it expresses in an unconstrained and undeterministic manner what photography is, and should be, about.
  86. Antonio,
    I can't count the number of times that I have been in an amazing location, feeling the wind on my skin, and watching dust motes float like fairies through columns of sunlight that filter through a living green canopy. I feel overwhelmed with the beauty of the scene and I think to myself how I would love to share that moment with someone. I pull out my camera and take a few shots. I get home and have a look at them and the disappointment hits. What I captured was nothing like what I saw at the time. It seems smaller and flat and less alive. When I close my eyes and remember the scene chances are that even my memories are colored by my emotional attatchement to the place or time or situation. There are editing techniques and software that allow me to manipulate a photograph so that the end result more closely matches what I saw in my minds eye and allow me to convey more of what I felt or saw or experienced at the time.
    Maybe when I look at a rusted out old truck I see a kind of beauty in it. When you look at one you might see just a used peice of metal. Perhaps by the time I am done editing and saturating and manipulating the photograph I took of the old truck I may be able to convey to you what it is that I see when I look at it. Everybody sees and experiences what is real and their vision of it is colored or clouded or whatever by who they are and how they feel and what they've experienced. What photography does is help give us more control over how we wish to convey an image. You may wish to show a thing in as natural a state as possible, under the best conditions you can, and hope that people see the beauty in it. Someone may want to show the stark simplicity of a buildings lines without the buildings or people around it competeing for the viewers attention, or boost all the colors of a carnival shot so the viewer sees a dream like scene that was closer to what the photographer expericened while he/she was there. Is one method more right or valuable than another. I don't think so. The more diversity we have in photography the more eyes we have to see the world through.
  87. Just a note re Cartier-Bresson. His printer complained constantly that the negatives were terrible, and that it took hours to get a decent image out of them. I suspect that most of the people praising the 'purity' of film photography have never been in a darkroom (same for the 'SOOC' school of digital photographers). Steve McCurry is often invoked as the paragon of the purist technique. He shot Kodachrome, and just printed it straight. What does 'printed it straight' mean? It means that National Geographic's master prepress technicians knew exactly how to get the Geographic style of vivid color out of that particular film. McCurry also carefully chose whether or not to blur his backgrounds. When you look at someone a few feet in front of a wall, does the wall dissolve into a blur of color?
  88. Les
    Bresson's negatives were not all bad. Some of them were not perfectly exposed because often he had to shoot fast without thinking in order to get the moment he was always searching for. LINK
    I like your words (and your portfolio as well)
  89. Sorry for weighing in so late and for not having the time to read the previous posts.
    Indexicality: The following definition of "indexical" comes from
    "An expression whose meaning depends upon the context in which it is employed. Thus, for example, in the sentence, "I came back from there an hour ago," the words "I" and "there," along with the phrase "an hour ago," are all indexicals—the person, place, and time to which they refer is different on each occasion of their use."
    The indexicality of a photograph simply amounts to the photograph's pointing to something other than itself. This does not, by any means, establish the reality of the subject. Moreover, this entire thread begs a huge question - - the nature of reality.
  90. "The art in photography does not lay in the technical and visual aspect, but in the mental and emotional process the photographer does when he visualizes and takes a shot. That's why it is not "visual" art, because it is "emotional" and "mental" art of the photographer itself capturing a real scene that should be the same for everybody but it is not."
    Visualising and taking a shot can indeed embody emotional and mental, but what the above argument very conveniently ignores is the visual (and technical) aspect that comes later when the person then transforms that captured image into something more, which is what is possible in the black and white darkroom (possible also with colour, of course) and what costiturtes the making of visual art in some cases. As said above, "many of the "best" images ever made were made with manual film cameras and a huge amount of manipulation in printing."
    It is also possible in the lightroom, although the transformation does not necessarily lead to visual art.
  91. Antonio, I think that the bulk of "unreal" images being made today are the result of the quest for instant impact at the expense of subtlety, artistic longevity, or qualities inspiring thoughtfulness, reflection, new ideas, etc. Images with the combination of highly saturated color, simple but strong graphics, controlled shadows and highlights, and a tonal baseline of a rich black have a major "wow" factor, can be powerfully attention-grabbing and often "attractive" to many people. If they are taken too far, however, they really become cartoonish caricatures of the scene or subject, and if one were to hang such a print on the living room wall, one might well find that the image overstays its welcome rather quickly. This approach to image making still requires decent seeing and visualization, as well as knowledge of certain formulaic techniques, but it seems to me that it often lacks meaning and conceptual depth.
    To me, the photographs that have true merit are those that, whether visually impactful or subtle and quiet, also encourage reflection and thoughtfulness, promote new ideas, reveal certain truths or interesting conceptual perspectives, etc. In other words, without being trite or cliché they prioritize the philosophical, while being, to varying degrees, conventionally attractive or repulsive, real or unreal, and descriptive or abstract.
  92. Sorry, I did not read a good part of the discussion but I am going to state my opinion about the question.
    As Ansel Adams says, photography, in its first step is making something other than reality. Because we are at least mapping a 3 dimensional work to a 2 dimensional piece of paper which is a changed reality and not the same as the original at all.
    Secondly, I cannot understand the difference between a camera and photoshop ! aren't both tools made by human being to produce art ? I believe each person who has been trained about the fundamentals of art should not feel any limitation of using those tools in order to create a piece of art. your limit is your imagination. Why can should I rely on camera and not on photoshop ?! why not reverse !?
  93. Dan, if nobody "cares"​
    That's not what I said, is it? I didn't make a blanket statement that no one cares about photography, only that it doesn't matter where one's work falls on the realism continuum (ultra-realistic to hyper-impressionistic).
  94. A few days ago, Mr. Bassi wrote,"That's why editing is superficial, IMO. The artistic process happens BEFORE the shutter is released, not after."
    In my opinion, the artistic process happens between the ears and can occur at any time. For that matter, art also happens between the ears and can occur at any time. Notice that I have differentiated the two. they are not one and the same in my opinion. One is what the artist does alone, the other is what the art consumer and the artist do together.
    I have produced very edit sparse images and heavily edited images. Both according to what I was feeling at the time of creation. I don't believe one was created as a result of the 'artistic process', and one was not. Sometimes, what I was feeling at time of image capture is not what I was feeling at the time of presentation. And sometimes what I was feeling at the time of artistic consumption is different from both. ALL of that is part of the artistic process, and ALL of that changes the minute you throw the art consumer into the equaiton.
    In some ways, this is a futile argument, but it is an interesting argument nonetheless; and one, I suspect, will go on forever. For me though, art is a form of communication and like all communications, it is a two way street, what the sender means, what the reciever percieves and sends back to the original sender, and what HE or SHE percieves. In a sense, art and communictions is an endless feedback loop and all of the loop affects later iterations of that loop.

    Maybe this forum thread is a type of art!

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