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Author Topic: Photographic Integrity  (Read 33197 times)
JohnKoerner
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« on: February 19, 2009, 07:56:28 AM »
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As a novice just getting into photography, I have been trying to figure out not just which cameras and lenses to try to get, but also which monitors to view my shots through, as well as which software programs to process my shots with. Well, a girlfriend of mine sent me a link to her personal favorite nature photographer, Thomas Mangelsen, who apparently does not digitally-manipulate his images at all. In fact, it even says so on his website:


"A purist to the end, Tom does not digitally-manipulate his images, and is vehemently opposed to photographing animal models in game farms. Instead, he focuses on three main elements to capture the ideal photograph: Patience, light, and behavior."

http://www.mangelsen.com/store/util/portra...an_artist?Args=


So my question is, as the Digital Age booms does true photographic integrity become extinct? At this point, I am hardly able to create a great shot with both my camera AND post-processing with digital software, so the thought of my own ability to take a "poster shot," just right out of the box with no manipulation at all, is simply amazing to me. Yet wouldn't this be true photographic talent? Isn't post-processing essentially an admission of inferior skill in taking photos with one's camera? I am curious how most people feel about this subject, philosophically.

Should we embrace the fact this is the "Digital Age," and should we therefore use all the photo-modifying software tools we have to our utmost ability?

Or should we lament the fact that true photographic skill is a dying art, and that all of this digital processing means more mediocre photographers are able to digitally-manipulate their images from so-so to acceptable, only thanks to software?

I would be curious how people felt about this, or if they even thought about it.

Jack
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russell a
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« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2009, 08:17:03 AM »
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This topic has been addressed before.  Bottom line:

1)  photographs have been manipulated from photography's inception (even by some who may be your heroes.)

2)  "pure" is in the eye of the beholder and the heart of the producer

3)  take whatever stance you feel comfortable with anywhere along the entire continuum
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Joe Behar
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« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2009, 08:26:51 AM »
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Quote from: JohnKoerner
So my question is, as the Digital Age booms does true photographic integrity become extinct? At this point, I am hardly able to create a great shot with both my camera AND post-processing with digital software, so the thought of my own ability to take a "poster shot," just right out of the box with no manipulation at all, is simply amazing to me. Yet wouldn't this be true photographic talent? Isn't post-processing essentially an admission of inferior skill in taking photos with one's camera? I am curious how most people feel about this subject, philosophically.

Should we embrace the fact this is the "Digital Age," and should we therefore use all the photo-modifying software tools we have to our utmost ability?

Or should we lament the fact that true photographic skill is a dying art, and that all of this digital processing means more mediocre photographers are able to digitally-manipulate their images from so-so to acceptable, only thanks to software?

I would be curious how people felt about this, or if they even thought about it.

Jack

Jack,

I'm sure you're going to get the full gamut of responses and each one will be valid to one extent or another. I don't think there is a definitive answer to your questions. I think its a matter of degree and personal opinion. Here's my take on it.

Relatively modern photography started with glass plates and contact prints. At that time one had to be proficient at safeguarding the fragile plates, processing them and them making a contact print.

As we progressed to cellulose film we no longer needed the skill set required for glass  plate photography but we developed new skills to deal with the new technology. We could now make projected prints. We had a wider variety of films and papers to choose from and chose the appropriate ones to suit our needs for any particular photo situation. As technology advanced we got new developers to enhance or retard a multitude of characteristics of film and paer and again we made decisions on which process and material to use. Negatives that were not perfect could be "saved" by the use of different chemical processes, burning and dodging in the darkroom and a host of other means.

I honestly don't know if any of the above compromised "photographic integrity" Maybe that's not even the right term to use.

When you shoot a raw image and then start work using software I would argue that you are just using the same philosophy as we did in the past. Choose a "film type" choose a "process" and do things like burn, dodge, tone or crop.

If those things seem innappropriate to you, the answer is simple. Don't do it. No one is going to think any less or more of you regardless of your choice. Your photography is your own.

Photographic skill or talent has many meanings. For some it means composition, for others it means technical skill at focus and exposure, for some it means the ability to control your equipment and process to achieve the results you want. I'm sure there are also more criteria and more combinations of them than I can possibly list here. As I said, in my opinion they are all valid.

As far as I'm concerned you should use any and all tools you have available to you as long as you're happy doing it.

Go take some pictures and have fun
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framah
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« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2009, 08:46:03 AM »
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I would like to know just what he means by "digital manipulation"

Is he still using film?

If not then he is full of it as the image is manipulated digitally as soon as he takes it off the memory card.
He can't do anything with the raw file unless he "DM"s it and if he shoots JPEG, then it is done for him in the camera.

Digital images by their very nature requires us to manipulate them just to get them onto the monitor and then to adjust them to the final size and so on.

In the "old days" of darkrooms, we manipulated the images even if it was to remove a spot. How about when we changed the time or temperature of the developer? That manipulated the image, also.

Personally, I feel it is just a marketing gimmick to make people think he is some sort of genius at what he does.

He does have nice images on his site but nothing I would consider worthy of being labeled one of  the best out there, but I still think it is  part of the overall marketing machine he has in place.

By the way... he advertises "Natureview Glass" There is no such thing on the market called Natureview glass. What he was using was Denglas (who never called any of their products Natureview) and the company stopped production a couple of years ago.

This is yet another example of his marketing engine working. He gave it a name as if it was something only he has.

His whole style is quite similar to Thomas Kinkade who makes mediocre paintings and sells tons of them thru an amazing marketing scheme.

Seriously, suggest to your girlfriend that she check out some other photographers websites as there are people ALOT better than he is.  My personal opinion.  Check out some of the people who post on this site.
I don't have any of my images on my website yet.



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framah
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« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2009, 09:07:24 AM »
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By the way.. I agree with the other posters, just do what you love and don't worry about it.
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walter.sk
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« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2009, 09:19:06 AM »
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Quote from: Joe Behar
Photographic skill or talent has many meanings. For some it means composition, for others it means technical skill at focus and exposure, for some it means the ability to control your equipment and process to achieve the results you want. I'm sure there are also more criteria and more combinations of them than I can possibly list here. As I said, in my opinion they are all valid.

As far as I'm concerned you should use any and all tools you have available to you as long as you're happy doing it.

Go take some pictures and have fun
I agree totally with what Joe has to say.  In addition, a photographer can (or must, in some cases) consider the purpose of the photograph.  Perhaps the most extreme examples are pictures used for evidence (such as crime scenes), science (medical purposes), journalism, and nature photography, where the viewer is led to believe that what is portrayed is an "accurate" representation of a scene the viewer may never get to see.  

Perhaps at the other extreme are the images that are shot and manipulated to represent not the "objective, evidential reality" of the scene, but the subjective reality or truth of the interpretive perception of the creator of the image.  Beyond that, images subjected to great transformation and abstraction through the use of computers, where the intent might be "art for art's sake," to use a perhaps overworked term, are both equally valid in the minds of many, as well as nothing new in concept (Look up the website of Jerry Uelsmann, who has been producing highly surrealistic and abstract art using film and darkroom only...he has continued to use these techniques while the computer users catch up to him).

Again, I would like to reinforce the idea that you will soon choose according to your own values which path to take as a photographer, and that you will be free to change later on if you so desire.  And, please don't find yourself in the self-righteous position of criticizing others who chose different paths.

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dwood
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« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2009, 09:20:45 AM »
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Warning...thread drift.

Can you tell who the Red Sox fan is on this thread? Man, that's pretty funny.

Sorry, back to your regularly scheduled programming.
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fike
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« Reply #7 on: February 19, 2009, 09:42:37 AM »
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Some opinions on the matter as it applies to Landscape and Nature Photography:

  • Great shots always receive some post-processing before printing or display.
  • Ask yourself, “Is that what I saw?” not “Is that what my camera caught?” Bend the technology to your will, not the other way around. If your images don’t match your memory, figure out what technique, manipulation or technology will help you capture the image as you remember it. (HDR, panoramic, RAW, polarizer, lighting, whatever)

Some folks get caught-up in some objective reality that the camera is somehow able to capture.  This is impossible; the camera makes choices in the tone curve it applies, the color rendition, and the sharpness.  When we used film, the grain and color of the scene were modified by virtue of the selection of film.  

Were the early 20th century B&W master photographers less pure and truthful because they photographed a colorful world that, because of technology limitations, they only displayed in black and white.  Did that make their work any less truthful?

This obsession with truthfulness in landscape photography is largely grandstanding by big egos.  (my opinion.)  

The simplest guidance that I can give is that when you digitally manipulate an image it should either be subtle (not obvious to the untrained eye) or blatantly obvious that you have manipulated the image.  This ensures that you are being virtuous and honest.


Some Caveats:
Lots of this stuff changes when you move into photojournalism and documentary photography.  For some really interesting insights on that end of photography see BagNewsNotes

I happen to agree with this photographer on game farm photography.  See here Game Farm Article
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Fike, Trailpixie, or Marc Shaffer
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I carry an M43 ILC, a couple of good lenses, and a tripod.
Don Libby
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« Reply #8 on: February 19, 2009, 10:01:42 AM »
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This topic pops up every once and a while which is probably a good thing; I see this as a slightly different take on the question/subject.

Here’s a question – has there ever been a form of photography that hasn’t been manipulated?   Doesn’t the mere fact of adding a filter to the lens act as a form of manipulation?  Doesn’t about the choice of film, chemicals, length of time in the soup verses the type of paper, verses development methods utilized all add up to manipulation of the image?  I remember having the ability in a wet darkroom to do dodge and burn and other methods that are all manipulation.  The digital darkroom acts the same in many respects as the wet darkroom used to only we can do it better, faster; I rarely use a filter as I can achieve much the same effect in the digital darkroom.  Based on the above, I would say that we are not in any danger of loosing this as an art form.

I think I remember a similar thread a couple years ago that questioned the “old rusty can”.  Basically it went something like – do you keep the can in your otherwise beautiful landscape image or do you clone it out.  I felt then as I do now the question also centered on an individual’s method of setting up the capture; if you take your time in setting up prior to the capture then you can either move around the can or pick up the trash.  Of course there’s a lot to be said about the intrusion of trash in an otherwise pristine environment and I have taken the image then picked up the trash.

I think we need to remember that photography is an art form and much like a sculptor “sees” the finished form in the rough form we need to “listen” to our images as we process them.  I’ve had some images that that spoke to me after a short time of processing and others that have taken several hours before I knew it was done.

So to answer the question of how digital photography is affecting “true photographic integrity” I would say that it has always been the integrity of the person holding the camera that affects the end result not the technology used.

There have been some very good comments before mine so make up your own mind on how/what you do.

If you are true yourself and what you are attempting to convey then I’d say you’re okay.  

Best of luck

don

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kwalsh
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« Reply #9 on: February 19, 2009, 10:25:29 AM »
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Where does software fit in?  About the same place the darkroom fit in, though it is a bit more complicated.  With RAW shooting the software also takes the place of film curves, so the line is blurred.  I think the other posts in this thread cover things pretty well, I'll just add some thoughts for you to chew on.

- Often people who rail against "digital manipulation" are blind to the very aggressive "manipulation" than many films impart to the image, Fuji Velvia being a classic case of a film that dials saturation up so far you would never dare point it at a human face.  And yet I've met photographers who think touching the saturation slider in Photoshop is blasphemy and yet shoot Velvia.  Most people who have been at this a long time have a more nuanced view though.

- Ansel Adams used a variety of films, did in camera dodging and burning, used color filters on the camera to alter the tonal representation of the scene, optimized negative development for the scene contrast range (the Zone system), optimized his developer and agitation methods to achieve the level of sharpening he wanted on the negative based on the subject of the shot, chose different contrast papers to print on, and did extensive dodging and burning of his prints.  Was that "manipulation"?  Is doing the same thing with software any different?

- When color films first became widely available many in the photographic art community didn't think they merited any consideration as "art" precisely because compared to B&W negatives/prints they were so difficult to manipulate!  The fact that you were forced to take the image essentially unaltered from the camera made many people in the community consider them not to be "true" photography!

- Besides allowing "standard" B&W darkroom procedures to be easily applied in both B&W and color images (and much more quickly and precisely) Photoshop also now allows much more complicated pixel level manipulation such as complicated composites and cloning.  This pixel level tweaking is much more akin to what many would consider "manipulation", but on the other hand composites and air-brushing have always played a role in certain areas of photography.  

So, as others said, shoot and process how you feel comfortable.  Read and consider other peoples approaches and opinions, but don't let them define your art for you.  For every film transparency fanatic who beats their chest and says you should take your images straight from your camera there is a HDRI fanatic who claims that unless you take a 8 stop range of bracketed exposures to capture the full dynamic range of the scene and merge them with HDR software that you haven't actually captured the scene.

To each their own!

Ken
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Herkko
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« Reply #10 on: February 19, 2009, 10:42:07 AM »
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Quote from: fike
  • Great shots always receive some post-processing before printing or display.
  • Ask yourself, “Is that what I saw?” not “Is that what my camera caught?” Bend the technology to your will, not the other way around. If your images don’t match your memory, figure out what technique, manipulation or technology will help you capture the image as you remember it. (HDR, panoramic, RAW, polarizer, lighting, whatever)

I'm amused with all the explanations of "how it matches my memory" when I'm looking all those seriously overcooked landscape pictures of nowadays. First time any filter gimmick, HDR, vignets, graduations, pumped up saturation, polarizer or like may be looking cool. But after seeing 10.000 more of those manipulations in pictures, slapped up on top of each other, imo, they are only looking boring, very predictable and mainstream. There may even be some idea in picture, but when it is hidden behind dozens of heavy layers, it is not so easy to sort it out anymore.

There is a fine line between "how I remember it" or "how I stuff in all the latest filter gimmicks and also the ones I have been using earlier". Among the nature subjects, landscape is the genre that has been hit hardest with this overdone pp, for some reason I'm not aware of. I predict (or maybe hope) that silly trend will be settling down after a few years.
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« Reply #11 on: February 19, 2009, 10:49:50 AM »
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I shoot many of my photographs using a Canon 85mm f 1.2 lens, because I like the contrast, color,sharpness, brokah, and limited depth of field at 1.2.  I'm manipulating the heck out of what I'm photographing.  The fantasy that I can take a photograph in some purist way is silly.
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Gordon Buck
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« Reply #12 on: February 19, 2009, 11:12:41 AM »
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I like Alain Briot's essay, "Just Say Yes", http://www.luminous-landscape.com/columns/just-say-yes.shtml
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« Reply #13 on: February 19, 2009, 11:36:55 AM »
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Quote from: JohnKoerner
At this point, I am hardly able to create a great shot with both my camera AND post-processing with digital software, so the thought of my own ability to take a "poster shot," just right out of the box with no manipulation at all, is simply amazing to me.


Get back to us when getting a great shot right from the camera becomes commonplace to you...at this point you are indeed relying on digital imaging to elevate the level of your images and as such, you're prolly feeling like you are cheating or somehow unworthy...get over it. You are judged not by HOW you do something but WHAT it is that you've done. Is the final image compelling? Does it tell a story? Do people enjoy looking at the image? If so, who's to judge how you came about the image unless you've intentionally set about to deceive people or unless you are a photojournalist.

Worry about your images and what they look like and less about what you did or didn't have to do to create them.
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Tklimek
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« Reply #14 on: February 19, 2009, 11:38:15 AM »
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I won't put words in Jack's mouth (the OP); but I'm guessing he posted this to start a thought provoking discussion, rather than looking for an discrete answer to guide him.  That's ok, and it's fun.  A lot of time though these Internet forums get folks riled up about one thing or another and these threads which are meant to be "thought provoking discussions" become a bit personal.    

I don't believe that there is simply any wrong answer here only opinions; therefore if you are shooting photography as art than it is MY opinion that you should be able to do as little or as much manipulation as you want....as it pleases you.  As already mentioned, if you are shooting digital, I believe the moment you press the shutter you've "manipulated" the image (to some extent, even when shooting raw).

As far as making photos the way the photographer remembered it.....that certainly is one take.  How about ....how the photog felt it instead?  If one Idecides to use some negative clarity and some exposure tweaking on an image of a horse in a field on a cold, wet, overcast day, maybe their trying to convey how they FELT at the time of the image rather than how it actually appeared....maybe the photographer wants you to FEEL the dripping velvet green of the woods accented by the crisp and colorful Autumn leaves with the smell of rain in the air.  It's your picture...right?

Cheers...

Todd
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NikoJorj
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« Reply #15 on: February 19, 2009, 11:40:05 AM »
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Quote from: Iron Creek
has there ever been a form of photography that hasn’t been manipulated?
That's exactly the question for me - and (still in my humble opinion) I'd answer that the only unmanipulated view is being there here & now, at the scene, and view it with your own eyes.

Projecting a 3D reality into a 2D support is a gross manipulation, and framing it into a rectangle is no less influent (even if more demanding).
Moreover, compressing the dynamic range of reality onto a paper, or even a backlighted screen or slide, is yet another manipulation.

There ain't any reality in photography beyond conveying that you saw and felt - and this goal makes some manipulations necessary, and some are even inherent to the process.
How much is too much? You'll have probably as many answers as answerers.
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Nicolas from Grenoble
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« Reply #16 on: February 19, 2009, 11:45:57 AM »
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Quote from: JohnKoerner
and is vehemently opposed to photographing animal models in game farms. Instead, he focuses on three main elements to capture the ideal photograph: Patience, light, and behavior."[/i]

what is interesting is that he is "vehemently opposed to photographing animal models in game farms" yet he has no problem going to places where animals in the natural world are infringed upon by man for the sake of photography and sightseeing. For example he talks about his most popular shot of a tiger he shot in India on the back of a trained elephant. He almost missed it because other tourists wanted to ride the elephant also. Such places bait and feed wild animals to get them to come in close for the tourists, making the tigers more like pets or farm animals than wild.


Makes you wonder what he is so "vehemently opposed" too?
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Tklimek
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« Reply #17 on: February 19, 2009, 11:47:47 AM »
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Nicholas....

Even if you and I are standing in front of the same landscape or scene and have used the latest "Eye Calibration software" (to ensure we are both "seeing" the same color), we could very well see the scene differently!  LOL.....that's what makes the world great!

I also love your analogy of 3d being projected onto 2d...very good point!

Cheers...

Todd

Quote from: NikoJorj
That's exactly the question for me - and (still in my humble opinion) I'd answer that the only unmanipulated view is being there here & now, at the scene, and view it with your own eyes.

Projecting a 3D reality into a 2D support is a gross manipulation, and framing it into a rectangle is no less influent (even if more demanding).
Moreover, compressing the dynamic range of reality onto a paper, or even a backlighted screen or slide, is yet another manipulation.

There ain't any reality in photography beyond conveying that you saw and felt - and this goal makes some manipulations necessary, and some are even inherent to the process.
How much is too much? You'll have probably as many answers as answerers.
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DarkPenguin
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« Reply #18 on: February 19, 2009, 12:03:05 PM »
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You guys are beginning to make me think this isn't real...

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« Reply #19 on: February 19, 2009, 12:18:57 PM »
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Quote from: DarkPenguin
You guys are beginning to make me think this isn't real...

 

It was a dark time in America when this happened, but this "enhancement" gave me a good laugh.
« Last Edit: February 19, 2009, 12:20:08 PM by Chris_Brown » Logged

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