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Author Topic: Artistic License  (Read 14653 times)
Rob C
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« Reply #20 on: March 25, 2012, 12:38:21 PM »
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The sculptors will be marching on Rob C's house, pitchforks and torches in hand, on April 1.  Dance to follow.

(evil grin)

Tom



For what it's worth: I am expecting builders and painters next month... anyway, sculpture is another thing altogether and as long as it's modelled along the lines of Bennini, I think it gets a free pass. Much else is stonemasonry, drystone dykes and road-mending.

;-)

Rob C
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John Camp
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« Reply #21 on: March 25, 2012, 12:48:41 PM »
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God may write lousy plays, but relatively few people can write good ones no matter how much artistic license is afforded them. This is true of all artistic endeavors. To counter this difficultly in a world swamped in imagery, many visual artists place self-imposed limits on how much license they allow themselves. This may narrow the scope of the work, but the self-imposed boundaries help the viewer assess the work within a context or discipline. Landscape photography is a wide open field, and my assessment of work in this genre would go up a notch if I learned that the artist narrowed his limits rather than expanded them; that he leaned more toward the forensic than the fungible.

It's not that I want to make his life more difficult, it's just that it would signal to me that he is more interested in the wonders and complexities of things as they are found rather than the sly manipulation of things to match an artistic ideal. Yes, the act of taking any picture is interpretive and could be considered artifice and manipulation. And yes, non-manipulated images can be contrived through choice of lenses, point of view, subject selection, or other means to match an ideal. That's what makes one's work stands out. But allowing ever more layers of artifice through stretching and cloning while deliberately retaining the visual vocabulary of "straight" landscape photography breaks a certain cherished bond I have with the discipline.

+1

I'm astonished that nobody has dragged Ansel Adams into this discussion, but since nobody has, I feel obliged to. I think that different art forms have inherent truths to them -- the inherent truth in painting or drawing is abstraction (in the broadest sense) and so that even the finest reproductions of reality, as seen, say, in portraits, are always recognized as being abstracted from reality. Nobody is lying about anything. So Velasquez's portraits may have *felt* exactly like his subjects, but didn't look exactly like them: the paint is always apparent, as it is with Rembrandt, etc. You can see this abstraction in the very earliest cave paintings, and the very latest post-modernism. The inherent truth in photography is precise reproduction, though with recognized limitations created by lenses, sensors, films, and so on: but the *goal* has always been precise reproduction. That does not rule out emphasis of some elements -- which is where Ansel comes in. If you have a brightly lit landscape, chances are about 100% that the sky is not black -- that the black sky came through some kind of manipulation. But there is a difference between art and artifice. Ansel didn't hide his black sky. It's there for everybody to see and to comment on and to recognize as an artistic choice -- there's no lie involved. The problem with Photoshop is that it's a technology that allows photographers to lie, and to get away with it -- to say, "This is a reproduction of reality," when it isn't. We know it's already been used to create lies in some critical situations (war photography), because the liars have been caught doing it. There are some aspects of Photoshop that I'm really ambivalent about, like HDR. We've had to be content with *indicating* or *suggesting* high dynamic range with film and sensors, but now we may have the ability to actually display it. The fact that much HDR sucks is simply a truth about art in general, that most of it sucks. It bothers me a bit that HDR is a manipulation, but I'm also interested in the fact that it seems to be an impulse toward a more precise reproduction, rather than artifice. I'm also not particularly bothered by a little "gardening," if it means throwing a Coke can out of a photo; but I sort of don't like cloning one out. If you throw one out, the photo you wind up taking is still a precise reproduction of the reality that the camera sees; if you clone one out, you've then changed the photograph, and it is no longer an effort to reproduce exactly what the camera confronted. Somewhere in that difference, there *is* a difference.

JC
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bill t.
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« Reply #22 on: March 25, 2012, 02:09:46 PM »
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USA readers may remember the rubber stamped US Department of Agriculture inspection symbols on meat products at the supermarket.

I once saw a great rubber stamp.  Circular in shape, in the center were stacked up the words...

Inspected
Certified
Art

And wrapping around the perimeter, "Undefined Standards Department of Art."  If I had one it would be impressed on the backs of all my pieces.

Perhaps I will PS together an official looking Certificate for display in my art fair booth.  "ARTISTIC LICENSE.  Category 5: May manipulate reality without restriction."

But what I actually say to the Enhancement Police is, "this is a spot-on accurate picture of the soul of the place."  You can't argue with spirituality, stops 'em dead every time.

And may I just comment on the "goal of photography is precise representation" thing.  Since when?  A lot of early photography was anything but precise, Google "Steichen" and "early photograph" etc.  BTW Steichen was a truly great photographer...even his super-sharp, faultlessly precise images somehow manage to throw mere representation right out the window.  Personally, I only find really precise representations satisfactory when they somehow subvert or transcend reality through relentless revelation.  But merely accurate representations, bah, dime a dozen!  But I ramble.
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #23 on: March 25, 2012, 02:45:40 PM »
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..."ARTISTIC LICENSE.  Category 5: May manipulate reality without restriction."...

My version: 007: Artistic LICENSE TO KILL (Reality) Wink
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Tony Jay
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« Reply #24 on: March 25, 2012, 03:07:34 PM »
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Keep it coming.

All grist for the mill.

Regards

Tony Jay
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David Sutton
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« Reply #25 on: March 25, 2012, 05:39:16 PM »
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The inherent truth in photography is precise reproduction, though with recognized limitations created by lenses, sensors, films, and so on: but the *goal* has always been precise reproduction.

I see no evidence for this. From at least the 1860's many well known photographs were composites. They are in no way “fake”... the photographers were concerning with telling the story of a wider reality than the moment of a single capture. They would look at the concern over “manipulation” and wonder what planet these folks are from. Mind you, there has been strong debate over this viewpoint well before the twentieth century, so I suppose nothing has changed.  Smiley
A very heavily retouched landscape may be more "real" than a straight representation if it carries an emotional impact. After all, we are not standing there feeling the wind on our faces and sensing the smell of damp undergrowth, but there are ways of engaging our feelings with a two dimensional image which have been well understood by painters. The difficulty is often in the the eye of the viewer who doesn't understand the history of the photograph and that when I say "I am showing you I saw" can't be separated from the fact that I see with my mind's eye and that I really mean "I am showing you what I felt". Sometimes no amount of explaining can get this through.
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Tony Jay
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« Reply #26 on: March 25, 2012, 10:57:26 PM »
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Even without the requirement for compositing I agree with much of what David Sutton is saying.

Photography by its very essence is in no way an exact reproduction of a scene.
It is a hugely impoverished version of what was truly there in the scene.
Hopefully for those of us who are trying to represent something approaching the reality of the scene we can capture an acceptable substitute and then in post-processing bring out both as much detail as possible but also the "feel" or "emotion" of the scene in our images.

I do feel that should one add or subtract from the scene that one shot then disclosure in one way or another is required to maintain its integrity.
There is no intrinsic sin in doing this sort of manipulation, only that it should be disclosed especially if the implication otherwise is that the image represents an as-shot kind of reality.

As mentioned before I am really looking forward to reading different views on the subject.

Regards

Tony Jay
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John R Smith
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« Reply #27 on: March 26, 2012, 03:28:40 AM »
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A great deal of the problem here is the implicit assumption in Alain's article (and indeed in this discussion) that a photograph is a piece of "art" which you print and put in a frame. There are so many other uses for photography, many of which also invoke artistic "license" if you like. Such as in graphic design for magazine pages or poster design. Or when a photograph becomes the starting point for a piece of art in another medium entirely - the basis for an engraving or a lino-cut, perhaps. To feel that the original negative or digital file is in some sense precious and that itself (or the print therefrom) is the artwork, is a paradigm restricted to a very small subset of the practitioners who wield cameras. Neither view is "right" or "wrong", simply a product of customary use and acceptance.

Most of the college lecturers that I know who teach photography are not at all precious about artistic manipulation. The photograph, once you have it, is often just the starting point for a larger project. So they and most other graphic designers, commercial artists and indeed many painters and engravers would be rather amused by this agonising over just where the limits of artistic license should be. Basically, there aren't any limits. Where they do exist, they have been self-imposed by photographers (like myself) who feel more comfortable with a defined framework in which to operate.

John
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Rob C
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« Reply #28 on: March 26, 2012, 03:50:15 AM »
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Even without the requirement for compositing I agree with much of what David Sutton is saying.

Photography by its very essence is in no way an exact reproduction of a scene.
1.   It is a hugely impoverished version of what was truly there in the scene.Hopefully for those of us who are trying to represent something approaching the reality of the scene we can capture an acceptable substitute and then in post-processing bring out both as much detail as possible but also the "feel" or "emotion" of the scene in our images.

2.   I do feel that should one add or subtract from the scene that one shot then disclosure in one way or another is required to maintain its integrity.There is no intrinsic sin in doing this sort of manipulation, only that it should be disclosed especially if the implication otherwise is that the image represents an as-shot kind of reality.

As mentioned before I am really looking forward to reading different views on the subject.

Regards

Tony Jay


1.   This takes my breath away. On the contrary, the photograph is an attempt to make reality even better, if only through the modest mean of editing what’s on show, cutting out the crap, as it were.

This thread is primarily about landscape, but the same truth underpins people photography too; you always accentuate the positive as you see it and eliminate the negative (good reason for shooting tranny… never mind). Photographic sadism is something else, though I suppose it, too, can be an art, but personally I avoid wide-angles in these situations.

2.   I don’t accept this as any sort of valid unwritten rule or moral obligation. (As has already been said, forensic/legalistic/scientific uses of photography are different cases and are not thought of as part of the art scenario.) The photographer has to satisfy his own brief, that of a client and then, in advertising, respect any of the industry sub-rules about over-gilding the proverbial cake, especially with regards to food shots.

Truth, in any form of art, is a pretty big obstacle. Were it mandatory, what would be the point of shooting, drawing, writing or painting anything? Where would lie the buzz, the satisfaction of attempted creative input, which must be the principal reason any of us enters these disciplines? Oh, I had better include sculptors. (!).

As for the viewer asking the question: does he really ask that? Maybe he’s just looking for something to say when confronted by the maker of the ‘artwork’. Better to ask an inane question than reveal, face to face, that there is absolutely nothing else to be said or even discussed about the ‘work’.

Rob C
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Tony Jay
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« Reply #29 on: March 26, 2012, 04:07:03 AM »
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Interested in the forthright interpretation of what I said Rob.

With regard to the first point highlighted I stand by the fact that a photgraphic image cannot faithfully reproduce the tone, colour, and dynamic range of the scene. With specific reference to outdoor (landscape) photography I don't believe this is possible.
I see no contradiction in acknowledging this reality and acknowledging your point that one would like to produce an image that really is complimentary of the scene originally shot. I certainly slave over my computer with this end in mind during post-processing.

With regard to the second point I am enjoying the various views being put forward since they are providing real food for thought.

Regards

Tony Jay
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kencameron
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« Reply #30 on: March 26, 2012, 04:59:04 AM »
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Truth, in any form of art, is a pretty big obstacle. Were it mandatory, what would be the point of shooting, drawing, writing or painting anything?

I think that is absolutely right. It is just that people do come to photographs with some sort of  expectation - misconceived, certainly - that they will "tell the truth" in a naive sense. It is a burden which photographers have to carry in a way which other artists generally don't. The public expectations have something in common with those which apply to historians rather than artists. Photographs are seen as a kind of instant history of the present. And photographers have to be a bit careful about complaining about this, I think, because this quality is a part of what attracts people to photographs, makes them want to look at them. An instant of space/time is miraculously preserved from mutability.
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dchew
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« Reply #31 on: March 26, 2012, 05:47:57 AM »
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^ Ken I like that post very much. People in the 1800's heard these crazy stories of water boiling naturally out West, and it was ( at least in part) William Henry Jackson's photographs that convinced the public these stories were true. Those were landscapes, not forensic science.

I had my first big show last Friday, and I got the usual range of questions. I took Alain's advice and said, "Yes, abolutely!" to the manipulation question. Although The only cloning / moving I do is spot removal, there certainly is tone and color manipulation.

It was amusing that the general public tends to associate manipulation with Photoshop. I was asked several times if I used Photoshop (I use LR; rarely PS). You could easily tell their "respect" for the images went up when I told people I rarely use PS even after explaining what can be done in LR. I found that disconcerting.

Most photographers view this topic as a gradual slope of manipulation to varying degrees  However, there are many people in the general public who still see it as a black and white question.

Dave
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Tony Jay
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« Reply #32 on: March 26, 2012, 06:17:27 AM »
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Probably the point that I am leaning to is that no photographic image is real or truth in the absolute sense notwithstanding the forensic/scientific uses.
It is true that images shot for these purposes reach an apparent acceptable representation of reality but in absolute terms these images are a greatly impoverished version of that reality (in a previous post I forgot to even mention the difference in recordable detail).

It is also true that images shot for "artistic" purposes share this limitation. Part of the art of photography is to overcome the limitations of the medium. In the digital era through manipulation in software that we all use we attempt to create (recreate) what we saw and felt at the time. In certain circumstances the result will approach or reach a "fantasy" that even in a relative way may be unrecognizable to a third party present at the time of shooting who witnessed what was shot.

As mentioned earlier I do not view this as an issue per se. Some images are clearly fantasy and will be accepted as such and no explanation is required. The issue arises when the manipulation that is fantasy is passed off as an acceptable approximation of reality in a situation where a viewer who was not a third party viewer at the time of shooting would be deceived into believing when the third party witness would not.
This is an issue especially in landscape photography where a viewer/buyer/consumer would reasonably expect to have seen something similar had they accompanied one when shooting that image.

It is in this context that aesthetics and ethics will intersect. To try and wish the issue away I believe damages the integrity of the photographic medium.

Regards

Tony Jay
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LesPalenik
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« Reply #33 on: March 26, 2012, 06:19:14 AM »
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Quote
I'm also not particularly bothered by a little "gardening," if it means throwing a Coke can out of a photo; but I sort of don't like cloning one out. If you throw one out, the photo you wind up taking is still a precise reproduction of the reality that the camera sees; if you clone one out, you've then changed the photograph, and it is no longer an effort to reproduce exactly what the camera confronted. Somewhere in that difference, there *is* a difference.
A much more correct alternative is to scout the scene for any cans and bottles and remove them by hand prior to pressing the shutter.
The difference between the in-computer cloning and physical violation of the scene could amount easily to 100 calories expended by walking, bending, and tossing the cans further afield.

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Rob C
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« Reply #34 on: March 26, 2012, 09:06:14 AM »
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We are obviously all failing quite miserably to change even a single mind. Good: as Slobodan says, when everybody thinks the same, nobody thinks.

Whether one approaches photography in one way or the other depends on too many things for any rules to stand. Take my own Cellpix, for example: 90% of the time I have literally no idea what's being covered. I see something in reality and think there may or may not be potential there. I aim, as best I can, press the screen (ye gods!) and hope for the best. As now, just after my 'medicinal' stroll, I empty the cellphone into the computer, have a look, and decide if there is anything that'll amuse me for a few minutes of PS labour. That's one way of doing it. On the other hand, if I go to the bother of taking out the Nikon and a lens and even, in extremis, a little tripod, I always have to have something fairly definite in mind in order to snap at it.

So there it is: same guy, different equipment rules the method.

I see the same in Michael's cover shots here on LuLa. His MF ones tend to be far less exciting (my opinion only) than his small camera work which zings with life. But it isn't really the same thing/difference as used to be found with Hasselblad and Nikon. With digital, something about MF appears to be far less user-friendly than the 35mm format, greater than was the format induced difference within film work.

Oddly, though I would love to be able to go back to 500 Series Hassy, I have absolutely no desire to get into MF digital, even were it given me for free. Probably just as well!

Rob C
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« Reply #35 on: March 26, 2012, 09:30:33 AM »
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A much more correct alternative is to scout the scene for any cans and bottles and remove them by hand prior to pressing the shutter.
The difference between the in-computer cloning and physical violation of the scene could amount easily to 100 calories expended by walking, bending, and tossing the cans further afield.

Or better yet remove the cans and take them to a trash can or bring them back to civilization and dispose of them.  Grin My wife got me in that habit years ago.

To me photography is all about the final image and what it makes me feel, how it got there and whether or not it is pure reality is really only a matter of academic interest to me. I think people are a lot more "photoshop aware" after all the flack in the media about altering images of models for advertising, so lay people just assume that photoshop means distorting reality, while for a photographer it may mean more enhancing what is already there to complete the vision of the photographer.

Alan
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Alan Smallbone
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« Reply #36 on: March 26, 2012, 02:35:04 PM »
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I'm tempted to put the following disclaimer on my website:

"Any resemblance between any image of mine and the subject in front of the camera is purely coincidental."

Eric
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John Camp
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« Reply #37 on: March 26, 2012, 09:45:42 PM »
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I see no evidence for this.

He's referring to my statement that the inherent truth in photography is precise reproduction, within the physical limits permitted by the machine itself.

I should say that of the billions of photos taken daily, all but a tiny proportion -- so tiny that even a guestimate is foolish, but I'd say, perhaps 1/1000 of one percent? Or is that too high? -- are taken with the intention of capturing a reproduction that is as precise as the machine allows, most of these machines being cellphones. Further, I expect that the overwhelming majority of all of the varieties of cameras are set to take jpegs. Because of that, I think it's fair to say that the overwhelming majority of humanity, among those who are aware of photos at all, have an expectation of a scene manipulated only by the machine, and in certain set ways that are generally agreed upon. That's even true with such machines as Holgas, where the manipulation falls within certain set boundaries.

I'd argue, therefore, that photos that are manipulated in ways that are not apparent are inherently dishonest, and that serious art is rarely dishonest. Understand that I'm talking about the photo itself, the physical object, not the scene that is being photographed. I'd also suggest that photographs in which the manipulation is not apparent, and that are later discovered to have been manipulated  ("Photoshopped") often lose much of their power -- because the power of photos comes from the truth of precise reproduction. The power of an "artist" compared to that is relatively minor. And finally, I'd note, as somebody did above, that there are lots of excellent uses for photos, and most of them have nothing to do with art.

JC

 
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Christoph C. Feldhaim
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« Reply #38 on: March 27, 2012, 12:59:40 AM »
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We should punish all people shooting out of focus or under- or ovexposed images for forgery.
Maybe we should just punish all photographers, painters and sculptors for forgery.
Time for a new iconoclasm!
Burn these witches and sorcerors!
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David Sutton
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« Reply #39 on: March 27, 2012, 03:09:04 AM »
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He's referring to my statement that the inherent truth in photography is precise reproduction, within the physical limits permitted by the machine itself.

I should say that of the billions of photos taken daily, all but a tiny proportion -- so tiny that even a guestimate is foolish, but I'd say, perhaps 1/1000 of one percent? Or is that too high? -- are taken with the intention of capturing a reproduction that is as precise as the machine allows, most of these machines being cellphones. Further, I expect that the overwhelming majority of all of the varieties of cameras are set to take jpegs. Because of that, I think it's fair to say that the overwhelming majority of humanity, among those who are aware of photos at all, have an expectation of a scene manipulated only by the machine, and in certain set ways that are generally agreed upon. That's even true with such machines as Holgas, where the manipulation falls within certain set boundaries.

I'd argue, therefore, that photos that are manipulated in ways that are not apparent are inherently dishonest, and that serious art is rarely dishonest. Understand that I'm talking about the photo itself, the physical object, not the scene that is being photographed. I'd also suggest that photographs in which the manipulation is not apparent, and that are later discovered to have been manipulated  ("Photoshopped") often lose much of their power -- because the power of photos comes from the truth of precise reproduction. The power of an "artist" compared to that is relatively minor. And finally, I'd note, as somebody did above, that there are lots of excellent uses for photos, and most of them have nothing to do with art.

JC

 

Hello John. While not quite disagreeing with your post, I am ambivalent about it. I've said in the past that I think the whole discussion about whether to retouch or not is a stupid one. So here I am almost discussing it! So it goes. Mainly, I would prefer not to take up an entrenched position.
I would argue that most folks shooting with a cell phone have no idea of the resolution and colour gamut possible with print and why it is often necessary to use many exposures. And how it is necessary to work on a file to bring this colour and detail out. Even experienced photographers who don't print often have no idea either. All my images are therefore “manipulated” in a manner that is I hope, not apparent. I don't blame folks for their ignorance, but neither do I accept that art can be “dishonest”. Bad, yes.
The power of a photograph comes from its connection. For some that connection is emotional. For others, intellectual. For others it's spiritual: art's ability to see through the material and therefore weaken the grip of the material on their spirit. The power of the artist is the power to change reality. Renoir was adamant there was no London fog until Turner painted it. I think I understand what he meant.
I am slowly becoming convinced that to create “art” (whatever that may mean) out of a an artefact, you have to put some of your own soul into it. That means laying hands on it.  Software. No art comes from a machine. Good, even interesting photos, yes. Art, no.

Edit: I enjoyed your interview with David Burnett
« Last Edit: March 27, 2012, 02:18:29 PM by David Sutton » Logged

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