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Author Topic: When is a Photograph a Cheat?  (Read 19232 times)
theguywitha645d
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« Reply #80 on: September 22, 2011, 03:14:38 PM »
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Actually, I can paint cubist pictures like Picasso. I can even dribble paint like Jackson Pollack. Painting ain't so hard. I also know a lot of painters who suck at photography.

It is rather silly to compare two different processes. To say a painter takes a month to complete a work and a photographer can create a hundred pictures in the same time is not an argument. The painter gets to constantly return to a canvas to keep correcting it--just like in Photoshop. And if you know anything about photography, the photographer does not make one hundred final images, he/she is working to produce only one, but unlike the painter that can simply repaint a section of the canvas, the photographer need to get everything there at one time. It is a different skill set. A different process.

But none of this translates into value. The value comes not only in the process, but also in the execution of the work. A part of the execution is when the artist had the vision--Picasso is only valuable in relation to when he did his work, if he were starting today, he would not stand out. This is the same for Adams.
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Andres Bonilla
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« Reply #81 on: September 24, 2011, 07:41:32 PM »
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Well I have never understood why the use of Photoshop or any other software is sacrilegious in some circles. I have tried to do digital paintings out of my photographs with mixed results but the constant complain from a select group is why I don't leave the photograph alone. There is a stigma in some circles that if you use too much the digital darkroom you are somehow cheating the viewer. I see technology as a tool to get what I envision for that piece.

I just came back from Santa Fe and Taos, I went inside a photographic gallery where one of the photographers had these gorgeous shots of an iconic church. He was quick to point out that these were film photographs done with a large format camera ( Horseman I think he said ) and nothing but the beauty of light, pristine, unaltered photos. When I went to see the church I was shocked to see that from the exact same angle you could see a electrical meter at the back of the church, this apparatus was missing from its photograph. So Mr. Purist had somehow erased the electrical meter out of his artsy, purely photographic piece. Why the lies? Would his fellow anti Photoshop, anti digital purist ban him out of their select circle?
At the user critique forum someone posted a composite of two photos, I thought it was cheese in the execution but not unethical. So If I love a photograph but the sky is not perfect I may combine it with another sky and tell everybody about it.
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Michael West
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« Reply #82 on: September 24, 2011, 08:41:35 PM »
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He was quick to point out that these were film photographs done with a large format camera ( Horseman I think he said ) and nothing but the beauty of light, pristine, unaltered photos. When I went to see the church I was shocked to see that from the exact same angle you could see a electrical meter at the back of the church, this apparatus was missing from its photograph. 


Im in the North San Francisco Bay Area.

A local photographer who was until recently a "Mechanical Camera" purist is now using a small digital camera for much of his recent work, yet his statement about using said "mechanical camera" is still on the "about" page of his website.

I'm guessing that such seemingly dogmatic points of view are far more common that most of us could guess.

No "mechanical" dodging and burning allowed?  I think not.
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Isaac
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« Reply #83 on: November 19, 2011, 05:40:53 PM »
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> Another point:  Why is the “cheating” question asked of the digital photographer but not (usually) the film photographer?

I'm not at all persuaded that it is - there seem numerous examples from the very beginnings of photography (1855, Nigel Fenton's "Valley of the Shadow of Death".)

> The question of “cheating”  leads to discussions that are beside the point.  The only discussion that matters is about what it takes to produce good photographs that viewers linger over and remember.

I disagree - Is the photograph what it purports to be? - leads to other salient questions: What does the photograph purport to be? What was the photographers' intention in creating that image?

And when much of photography-as-art actually plays-off and subverts the apparent veracity of photographic images, the discussion of "what it takes to produce good photographs" doesn't take us away from [t]he question of “cheating”.

"When does a photograph document reality. When is it propaganda? When is it art? Can a single photograph be all three?" - "Believing is Seeing" by Errol Morris just happened to appear on the new books shelf of my local public library this week.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2011, 01:42:55 PM by Isaac » Logged
Ray
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« Reply #84 on: November 21, 2011, 05:02:34 AM »
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You guys must surely realise that cheating is a great human skill, whether the subject is photography, painting, economics, war, or just everyday social interaction.

The human species is the supreme master of cheating, deception and plain lying. No other species comes close to us in this respect.

But don't worry about it. The discipline of the scientific method is designed to take care of that.

Painter's have engaged in deception for thousands of years, whether by design or ineptitude.

Is there some law that decrees photography should be an exception?  Shocked
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Rob C
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« Reply #85 on: November 21, 2011, 11:35:07 AM »
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Dear me, Ray, that's some heavy tongue-in-cheek: I almost took you seriously for a terrified moment!

;-)

Rob C
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Isaac
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« Reply #86 on: November 21, 2011, 11:53:12 AM »
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Stick your tongue in your cheek, speak, your words are garbled - don't be surprised or blame others when you are misunderstood.
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Ray
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« Reply #87 on: November 22, 2011, 12:45:19 AM »
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Stick your tongue in your cheek, speak, your words are garbled - don't be surprised or blame others when you are misunderstood.

Oh! I see. My words are garbled. Perhaps I made a grammatical error. Let's check. So I did. Surprise! Surprise. I wrote painter's when I should have written painters. Now, with that in mind, are my statements clearer? No?

Okay! I'll take the trouble to explain and amplify the principles. Since I'm not sure which aspects of my statement you're having trouble with, I'll try to be precise and specific, addressing each point.

(1) Cheating is a great human skill.

This appears to be a biological fact. One may quibble about the use of the word 'cheating'. Deception might be more appropriate. Whichever synonym you choose, this skill of cheating, deception, or telling lies, whether big fat lies or little white lies, is a talent in which Homo Sapiens excels. It's a consequence of our big brains.

(2) The scientific method of controlled observation and repeated testing to verify the truthfulness of any theory or hypothesis, is our saviour from the mayhem that results from uncontrolled cheating.

(3) Painters have engaged in deception for thousands of years.

This is undoubtedly true. Artists, whether painters or music composers, have traditionally lived the role of servants to the ruling class, doing their best to please.

If one is commissioned to do a portrait of a wealthy and powerful aristocrat who is possibly, probably, and very likely, a bastard, a hypocrite and a cruel, unthinking and rather stupid man,  then one's carreer would end if one were to portray him as such.

(4) Is there some law that decrees photography should be an exception?

There appears to be no such law that I'm aware of. However, we should not dismiss the tremendous effect that the camera has had on painting. It had a significant effect even before photography was invented. I'm using a date of 1826 for the first, permanent photographic image that was created.

Long before that, we had a device or phenomenon called the Camera Obscura, the principles of which go back to Ancient Greece (Aristotle), and the Chinese about the same time, around 400BC.

The camera obscura is basically a pinhole camera without any photographic plate. The image is presented upside-down, and the size of the image depends on the size of the camera obscura, which can be as big as a room.

Unfortunately, the sharpness of the image depended on the smallness of the hole, which also affected the brightness of the image when displayed on a wall or canvas or whatever.

The invention of the lens occurred well before the time of Galileo, and was later instrumental in improving the the effectiveness of the camera obscura for painting purposes.

No longer was one limited by very fuzzy images from a large hole, or very dim images from a small hole. One could get a reasonably sharp and bright image with a good lens installed in the camera obscura.

Not only that, with the use of mirrors one could inveret the upside-down projection and get an ideal image on one's canvas, as a painting guide.

Do you think that Renaissance panters would not have grabbed this opportunity to create a never-before-seen realism in painting? You bet your arse they did!

For centuries before the first photographic plate that could permanenty record the image was invented, art in general had assumed an obvious degree of photorealism.

That's not to say that every painter used the projections of the camera obscura; of course not. A style was set and other painters imitated it, to the best of their ability.

When the 'real' camera was invented, in the early 19th century, the first people to take up the new technology were painters, or would-be painters. Manipulation by whatever means was part of the course.

Nothing much has changed.

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Isaac
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« Reply #88 on: November 22, 2011, 01:46:13 PM »
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Oh! I see. My words are garbled.
Were your words tongue-in-cheek?
Given the repetition and explanation here, your words seem not to have been meant tongue-in-cheek, so my remark doesn't apply to your words - but I do appreciate that you've gone to the effort of providing further explanation.

It's a consequence of our big brains.
Well, deception, and counter-measures to deception, are commonplace among forms of life that don't have brains at all ;-)
Perhaps "cheating" requires social animals able to form and communicate expectations about (present, future and past) behaviour in the group.

The scientific method ...
Yes but in many cases that would be a sledgehammer to crack-a-nut.

... then one's career would end if one were to portray him as such.
He who pays the piper calls the tune - there's always some awkward despot who wants the warts-and-all portrait :-)
(But now you seem to be talking about choices made under some notional or real duress, and talking about art for the sake of commerce.)

Is there some law that decrees photography should be an exception?
There's no law that decrees when people feel cheated by a photograph they will be less upset than when they feel cheated in other ways.

Nothing much has changed.
In many situations, people seem to experience photographs as "real" in a way not approached by trompe-l'oeil or the photorealism movement. In many contexts, people seem to have a different expectation about the veracity of photographs than about other representations.
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Ray
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« Reply #89 on: November 23, 2011, 03:13:16 AM »
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Well, deception, and counter-measures to deception, are commonplace among forms of life that don't have brains at all ;-)

Isaac, that's a very strange concept you've got there; forms of life without even a brain engaging in acts of deception??  I have to state bluntly that I think you are confused on this issue.

An act of deception requires at least some degree of awareness. By definition, a brainless creature is not capable of any act of deception. A brainless creature, or a form of life such as a bacteria, for example, will tend to engage in the same behaviour pattern in the same set of conditions in a repeatedly rigid fashion in accordance with its genetic encoding. That's not called deception.

An example of deception in our nearest relatives the apes, that I read about recently and found amusing, was a witnessed event of a young male gorilla being chased by an older, dominant male, perhaps because the younger male had made inappropriate advances to one of the females in the group.

At some point in the chase, the younger male, perhaps thinking he was losing the race, suddenly stopped dead in his tracks and pointed in agitated alarm to the horizon.

The older male was dutifully concerned, because he had a harem to take care of and any threat to the group would have to be dealt with.

Whilst he struggled to discern the apparent threat in the distant horizon, taking his time perhaps because of his failing eyesight, the younger male made his get-away. Now that's deception.

I repeat, Homo Sapiens excels in its capacity for deception. No other creature comes close.

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He who pays the piper calls the tune - there's always some awkward despot who wants the warts-and-all portrait :-)

That may be the case. I think a warts-and-all portrait of Oliver Cromwell exists. The point I'm making, which I hope you haven't missed, is that the situation of the 'piper calling the tune' is the norm. The entire advertising industry would fit into that category.

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In many situations, people seem to experience photographs as "real" in a way not approached by trompe-l'oeil or the photorealism movement. In many contexts, people seem to have a different expectation about the veracity of photographs than about other representations.

Absolutely true! At least we agree on something. But we should distinguish between acceptable cheating and unacceptable cheating. I'd be surprised if any lady were to object to the photographer cloning out a few pimples and blemishes on her portrait.

However I would not be at all surprised if there were very serious repercussions should any forensic photographer attempt to clone out a bullet hole in the head of the dead person he'd just photographed.

There's a long-standing adage that the camera doesn't lie, which is of course completely true. Inanimate objects, or even brainless creatures, cannot possibly lie. It takes a creature with a brain to lie.

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Rob C
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« Reply #90 on: November 23, 2011, 08:25:12 AM »
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As they almost used to say on the Rowan and Martin Laugh In, very interesting, but I'm still no closer to being sure whether you were being t-i-c or not.

Also, my closest relative was never an ape: it was a she: my mother, a human of extraordinary qualities. I have before me her old Spanish/English dictionary which I inherited after she was gone but not forgotten, and written inside the dust jacket I found these three words: defiant, flamboyant and triumphant. I'm never (in this life) going to know for sure whether it was accidental, a coincidence or whether she was leaving me a mental bequest, but I wish to hell I'd come across that message many many years ago when it mattered and could have made a difference. Some ape!

;-)

Rob C

 
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Isaac
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« Reply #91 on: November 23, 2011, 11:04:05 AM »
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By definition, a brainless creature is not capable of any act of deception.
Describing a situation as deception is certainly anthropomorphic, but the phrase can communicate so much about what we understand of the situation that it still is an appropriate description. (Arbitrary reference - Mimicry: The Orchid and the Bee.)

But we should distinguish between acceptable cheating and unacceptable cheating.
If everyone shared the same expectations about a photo and agreed the photo was acceptable, then why would they speak of "cheating" at all?

That question takes us right back to Mark Schacter's essay and bridging the difference in expectations between PERSON 1 and PERSON 2.
« Last Edit: November 23, 2011, 11:18:12 AM by Isaac » Logged
Lost
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« Reply #92 on: November 23, 2011, 01:45:57 PM »
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This issue seems analogous to that of drugs in sport - except that no one is willing or able to ban extensive editing of a photograph (even if "extensive" could be defined).

The reality is that modern editing techniques can produce images that are more commercially popular or potentially more artistic than would be the case without them. In such an arms race, the only thing that makes sense is to use whatever tools and techniques best support your vision, regardless of what is "real".

The real problem is when the tools define the vision - rather than the other way around (iPhone-ography?).
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Ray
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« Reply #93 on: November 23, 2011, 07:50:15 PM »
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Describing a situation as deception is certainly anthropomorphic, but the phrase can communicate so much about what we understand of the situation that it still is an appropriate description. (Arbitrary reference - Mimicry: The Orchid and the Bee.)


This is an excellent example of self-deception, which also requires a brain.

The bee, in failing to distinguish between a real female bee and a shape within the orchid flower that resembles a female bee, is engaging in self-deception, which requires a brain.

The human observer who ascribes the act of deception to the orchid, is also engaging in self-deception, and at the same time misunderstanding the processes of evolution.

If an orchid relies upon visits from bees in order to propagate, then the orchid that is the most attractive to the bees, for whatever reason, will be the orchid that survives and proliferates. Those orchids that are less attractive to bees will become rare and perhaps eventually become extinct.

As I'm sure you know, all forms of life are continuously subject to some degree of random mutation and genetic change through breeding, over which they have no control, which changes may or may not provide some survival advantage.

I'm reminded of the quip from George Bernard Shaw to a woman who suggested it would be a good idea if they were to get married because any child with her beauty and his brains would have a wonderful advantage in life. He replied along the lines,  "But madam, think what might happen if our child had my beauty and your brains".  Grin

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If everyone shared the same expectations about a photo and agreed the photo was acceptable, then why would they speak of "cheating" at all?

Clearly we don't all share the same expectations about anything under the sun, whether cheating or any other matter, so I'm not sure why you've raised that point.

Cheating or deception clearly takes place in Photography, so perhaps the only issue to consider is whether or not any specific act of cheating is harmful, and to what degree it may be harmful to any individual or group.

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Ray
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« Reply #94 on: November 23, 2011, 07:57:05 PM »
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Also, my closest relative was never an ape: it was a she: my mother.......
 

But your mother is not my closest relative, Rob. I did use the collective plural 'our'.  Grin
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stamper
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« Reply #95 on: November 24, 2011, 02:55:46 AM »
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This issue seems analogous to that of drugs in sport - except that no one is willing or able to ban extensive editing of a photograph (even if "extensive" could be defined).

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Photography isn't a sport so there isn't any resemblance of a connection. What I do when editing an image is between me and my conscience. If someone likes my edited version then I am happy. If they don't then it isn't a problem. Most of the photographers who say that editing is cheating are jealous of the ability of someone to edit an image. Instead of stating they don't know how to do it they knock it. Sad
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Lost
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« Reply #96 on: November 24, 2011, 03:42:19 AM »
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I think that the art world can be very competitive, much like a sport. People compete for attention and (if professional) money.

BTW, the recent record price for a photograph of the Rhine is a good example of the recent editing/processing arms race. If I read correctly, it used what was at the time innovative editing techniques and it is partly this that defines some of the appeal of the image (rightly or wrongly!). Once upon a time, dodging and burning (eg Adams) was state of the art, and something that only a few people could do - giving them an artistic advantage.

Rather than standing back and lamenting how easy it is for modern tools to reproduce these old techniques, shouldn't art always embrace the very edge of possibility to support the artist's vision - much as it always seems to have done?
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Isaac
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« Reply #97 on: November 24, 2011, 11:00:59 AM »
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The human observer who ascribes the act of deception to the orchid, is also engaging in self-deception, and at the same time misunderstanding the processes of evolution.
As I said - Describing a situation as deception is certainly anthropomorphic.
Ray, I see that you like to own the meaning of words, and insist others accept your meaning - but quibbling over definitions isn't going to hold my interest for much longer.

If everyone shared the same expectations about a photo and agreed the photo was acceptable, then why would they speak of "cheating" at all?
Clearly we don't all share the same expectations about anything under the sun, whether cheating or any other matter, so I'm not sure why you've raised that point.
Is the "we" that "don't all share the same expectations about anything under the sun" the entire human race or the 5 people who are all looking at the same photo?
« Last Edit: November 24, 2011, 12:18:16 PM by Isaac » Logged
Isaac
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« Reply #98 on: November 24, 2011, 11:42:55 AM »
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Photography isn't a sport so there isn't any resemblance of a connection.
Agreed, photography isn't a sport - but there still might be similarities between how people behave in sport and in photography, and similarities between how we expect people to behave in sport and in photography.

If someone likes my edited version then I am happy. If they don't then it isn't a problem.
Is it wrong to read that as - "If they don't then that's their problem"?
« Last Edit: November 24, 2011, 12:02:36 PM by Isaac » Logged
Bryan Conner
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« Reply #99 on: November 24, 2011, 02:18:13 PM »
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Photography isn't a sport so there isn't any resemblance of a connection.

Apparently, you have never chased a two-year old around with a camera trying to get a decent portrait.... Grin
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