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Author Topic: Paranoia over digital editing  (Read 5220 times)
sergio
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« on: January 14, 2003, 07:32:24 AM »
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There was an article some issues ago (was just looking for it but havent found it yet) about Afghanistan and was completely shot in digital.
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Bill Lawrence
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« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2003, 08:51:15 PM »
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So what's the difference between the different manipulations?  Why is adding or subtracting an element to a photograph for esthetic reasons any worse than increasing saturation by using Velvia to make a reasonably drab scene seem more vibrant?  Or using a split neutral density filter to reduce contrast versus digital blending?  In all cases you are portraying something in your photo that is not true to the original scene.  

Heck, you're snapping a very selective portion of the environment when you shoot a photograph, so there is every chance that your photo is not going to be representive of the environment you're shooting.  And while we're at it, don't forget some people alter the environment.  Have you ever moved a branch out of the way of the perfect flower?  Why is this different than cloning it out (other than the obvious that it is a lot easier just to move the branch).

I don't see the problem in doing this type of manipulation for photography as art.  Digital manipulation happens, manipulation happens in the "wet" darkroom, manipulation happens in the field before the shutter button is pressed.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is deluding themselves, or shoots very boring photos.

One could make different arguments when the goal of the photograph is to accurately record or report an event, but this is far from solely an issue with digital.  I highly recommend the ethics in photojournalism display at the Newseum (Arlington, VA, if it hasn't moved to DC yet).  One of their most memorable cases is a civil war photographer using ferrotypes (perhaps his D60 was on indefinite backorder due to discontinuation  ) who very accurately recorded scenes of dead soldiers (whose bodies he moved to put in more dramatic locations and poses to, in his opinion, better convey the tragedy of the war).

Must be my day to wax (rant?) philosophical.  A long day...

Bill
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Bill Lawrence
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Dale_Cotton
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« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2003, 09:24:01 AM »
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Photography rides two horses: art and documentation. One has to be careful not to mix up art photography with documentary photography when discussing digital editing. We all realize that there is a whole issue of evidence faking etc. that is very valid in documentary photography.

But this site is focused on the fine art or art-for-art's-sake aspect of photography. If you do art photography and wish to hobble yourself with the technical restrictions that are appropriate for documentary photography, be my guest. This is certainly a valid use of the camera. But my training (and that of many other photographers) in the visual arts goes back to the world of paintbrush and canvas. If I had argued with any of my art teachers that I had included that particular composition-destroying branch in my latest painting because it was really there, he would neither have laughed nor scolded - he would simply have stared at me uncomprehendingly. My job and my obligation as an artist is to express my vision, not Mother Nature's vision.

Take a look at this painting by Gauguin. Do we really expect that the swineherder's shoes were bigger than his hat? Or this painting by Robert Bateman. Do you really believe Robert set up his easel at this location and painted exactly what he saw before his eyes? Does the probability that this was not the case in any way lessen your appreciation of the picture?

The Gauguin painting also illustrates another aspect of the matter: the camera cannot tell the truth, even without artifice. Not only is the swineherder's shoe bigger than his hat, he himself is bigger than the church steeple to his left or the houses to his right.

The Bateman painting was most likely done from a combination of personal experience and photographs. To the modern representational artist photography is neither an enemy nor an object of distain, but a very useful ally. Much of modern art is done in a genre called photorealism. If painters are comfortable working hand-in-hand with photography, why should photographers be uncomfortable doing the equivalent in Photoshop? To me this picture by Robert Ganz is simply good art. If the thought police were to ban it on grounds of digital manipulation I would be very sad.

When I print and frame an image then hang it on a wall, my purpose is not to inform the viewer of what the world looked like on such-and-such a date at such-and-such a place. My purpose is to bring her joy.
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Dan Sroka
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« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2003, 06:40:05 PM »
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It all comes down to context: how your work relates to the context you place it in. Are you trying to record a moment in time, or interpret an event or scene? If you claim a photo is an accurate document, and it's not, then the quality and meaning of your work is diminished. Unless of course (in this post-modern world) your art is that very act of deception. (Has anyone done that: photojournalistic-style photos of non-real events? It'd be cool.)
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2003, 03:23:00 AM »
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Quote
Unless of course (in this post-modern world) your art is that very act of deception. (Has anyone done that: photojournalistic-style photos of non-real events? It'd be cool.)
National Enquirer, Weekly World News, etc. Unless you actually believe that Elvis, Bill Clinton, aliens, Newt Gingrich, and the Bat-boy have power lunches together on the mother ship...

Somebody's making big bucks off of this stuff.
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Timbo
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« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2003, 11:52:22 PM »
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...and the truth shall set you free!!  Cheesy
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Rob
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« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2003, 06:53:37 AM »
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Reading the last post about National geographic refusing to accept digital images I had a few thoughts.

There are still a few prominant publications that IMO have an excessive paranoia about digital maniuplation and didigtal photography in general.There is just as muc oppporunity for maniuplation in analog film as there is in the digital medium. Granted it is easier for the layman to manipulate digital images but that is another story.

There are no 'real' photographs to begin with. A photograph is a 2 dimensional metaphor of a 3 dimensional world. National Geographic and other hard core film purists will argue about the 'fake digitally enhanced color schemes' of digital imaging etc....IMO the same applies to the use of filters and certain films with analog. A look at some of the shots in the NG images of the year shows some landsacape shots that are overly saturated and exagherated colors. Sorry but I don't think their overly saturated digital Velvia prints taken with warming filters and a polarizer really captures the 'true' colors any more than doing a saturation adjustment in Photoshop with a digital image. Get real. That sunset shot in the last NG issue is just as 'fake' as anything done with digital.
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Jhaelen
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« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2003, 12:45:49 PM »
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This is a subject i've been struggling with for some time. I am not concerned with the arguments regarding color correction, saturation, etc. We all know film and digital does not see a scene the way we do. Ones artistic vision of a scene will probably not match the original scene. This has been accepted.

What does concern me is the quantity of purely fictional scenes created today. Anyone here that frequents Photo.net submissions has certainly seen the rate of digital manipulations skyrocket. I am referring to images that have been altered in a way that removes or adds major elements. Many of these images are not labeled as ficticious or "content" altered. This bothers me. This is digital art and has little to do, in my opinion, with photography.

Concerning the National Geographic article posted in another thread they were talking specifically about an amateur submission contest. The whole article was not posted but I seriously doubt they would imply basic color adjustments, film saturation, etc was the problem here. The term "Digital Alteration" is certainly a broad brush. If anyone has a link to the entire article I would like to read it. I should hold off on futher comment until I have more information.

When I scan 4x5's I attempt to match the digital version to the original as closely as possible. For those chromes that were not exposed correctly I generally attempt to correct this in Photoshop. I don't consider these types of alterations a problem. Nor do I see conversion to black and white, duo-tone, etc. a problem.

I personally love using digital as a means to produce great prints without having the need for a darkroom. It has been a rocky road for sure but I think it has been good for photography in general.

I look to the future with some trepidation. I wonder if one day I will be asked if my prints are fake... Even today some people question the authenticity and validity of a print produced at home digitally. (Not me though ) Perhaps one day the line between reality and fiction will become so blurred as to have even the most ardent collector of art question whether that scene in his print even exists.

Daniel
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willie408
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« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2003, 01:07:57 AM »
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Actually in some ways it is a little more complex than any of these notes.  Your brain "sees" - not your eyes.  The image on your eyball is upside down, backwards, on the inside of a 1.2 inch ball.  Your brain learns to see this what we think of as a correct representation.  All flat images - digital or film based - are interpretations of reality.  Now, a red zebra in a pack of black and white zebras is one thing, but Velvia is another.  I suspect we are just going to have to accept an image as just that - an image, not a representation of reality.  If the photographer wants it accepted a certain way, he should say - taken with Velvia, normal development, etc etc.  willie408
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Erik M
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« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2003, 12:15:55 PM »
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To me this picture by Robert Ganz is simply good art. If the thought police were to ban it on grounds of digital manipulation I would be very sad.

No one wants to ban it. That's a straw man argument. There's nothing wrong with manipulation OR straight photography. What's wrong is pretending the categories should be blurred, or should I start sending Michael Richmann e-mails, asking him if he 'really' took those photos of wildlife or were they inserted after that fact? I don't think he'd appreciate the query.
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Bill Lawrence
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« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2003, 07:36:01 PM »
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It's been done on film (uh, read here "movies").  The "mockumentaries" Bob Roberts and Best of Show come to mind.  Don't know that I've seen it for still photos, though.

That would be a great project.  Hey - we could do a fake documentary about National Geographic faking all their photos with digital!  

Cheers!
Bill
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Bill Lawrence
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Dan Sroka
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« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2003, 08:46:20 PM »
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You mean Spinal Tap is... fake???  Cheesy
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Dan Sroka
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« Reply #12 on: January 19, 2003, 07:55:48 PM »
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So are you saying that the National Enquirer, et al, are really just big art projects? They aren't freaks, they are postmodern, cutting-edge artistes who make Warhol and the rest look like amateurs? I love it!
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