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Author Topic: Artistic License  (Read 14755 times)
kencameron
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« Reply #40 on: March 27, 2012, 04:54:30 AM »
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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.


Interesting. Covert manipulation is dishonest, on your definition, in a quite specific way, because it breaches a near-universal expectation of "precise reproduction".  I have a lot of sympathy with that (although I am not sure I would use the word "dishonest") and I made much the same point in an earlier post. However, I think most viewers of art photography these days are very aware of the possibility of manipulation - hence all the reported questions about whether things have been "photoshopped" (or, for many of us, "lightroomed"). So it is not so much a matter of honest or dishonest, more one of recognizing that there will be uncertainty in people's response to the image, and adopting one of the various available ways of dealing with it, either within the image or by way of "artist statements" outside it.  You can't avoid the uncertainty, it will be there whatever you do or don't do in Photoshop. Also, when you go on to say that "serious art is rarely dishonest" I don't see that you are using "dishonest" in the same sense as you do in relation to photography. Surely other forms of serious art are not tied to precise reproduction and may - often do - breach expectations as a deliberate strategy. How would music or painting be dishonest? Surely only if the artist misrepresented his or her vision or emotion - and might not a photographer be dishonest in that sense if s(he) did not manipulate an image? To again repeat an earlier point, the problem for photographers is that many of the other "excellent uses for photos" are closer to history than they are to art - but I don't think it follows that those who aspire to art have to adopt the constraints that apply to history. What they have to do is recognize and intelligently respond to the potential confusion. In other arts this line of analysis is called "reader (or viewer) response theory". The wikipedia article is interesting.
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Isaac
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« Reply #41 on: March 27, 2012, 07:38:14 PM »
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... the finest reproductions of reality ... 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.

In context, I take it you mean - "but the *goal* has always been precise reproduction [of reality]". If that's the case, I think the wording creates confusion rather than clarity:
  • We don't duplicate reality - that isn't a limitation due to lens or sensors or..., it's a limitation due to the nature of our existence.
  • We do create representations of various kinds within reality.

"A photograph is a sign carried by the light reflected off the objects it represents."

As a record of reflected light, photographs can be remarkably precise representations.
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Isaac
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« Reply #42 on: March 27, 2012, 07:47:00 PM »
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It was amusing that the general public tends to associate manipulation with Photoshop.
Is that different than the way some British people association vacuum cleaning with Hoover?

Just as to hoover was once a convenient new verb, now to photoshop is a convenient (not very) new verb.
« Last Edit: March 27, 2012, 07:56:56 PM by Isaac » Logged
Isaac
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« Reply #43 on: March 27, 2012, 08:09:27 PM »
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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 ... but in absolute terms these images are a greatly impoverished version of that reality ...

Photographic images are real! They are real representations :-)

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Isaac
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« Reply #44 on: March 27, 2012, 08:26:50 PM »
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The public expectations have something in common with those which apply to historians rather than artists. ... An instant of space/time is miraculously preserved from mutability.
Well, we could at least say -- something of that moment is recorded -- and to that degree "photographs are documentary in nature" in origin.
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Tony Jay
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« Reply #45 on: March 28, 2012, 01:33:51 AM »
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I agree the image is real but it is not in absolute terms reality when compared to the scene.
In your words it is a representation of the scene but an extremely limited one on lots of levels.

A lot of the post-processing work I do is to try and reinfuse the image with what I did see and feel at the time of shooting precisely because the image itself could not capture everything that was present at the moment of capture.

Regards

Tony Jay
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C Debelmas
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« Reply #46 on: March 28, 2012, 01:50:38 AM »
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Let's imagine that we are in a different world where cameras are designed and used for the only purpose of documenting the real world, of copying it (to the best of the operator's skill).
Let's imagine that Alain Briot, for his next article, introduces himself as an artist. Explicitly. Without any reference to photography (at least at this stage of his article).
Let's imagine that his article is about a new art form, whatever its name, whereby he is able to create pieces of art that he calls "pictures".
Then Alain would explain why he has produced those "pictures", which message he wished to put forward, etc.
We can imagine that he would give insights on his artistic background, his life, both aspects providing in one way or another other clues to understand his work.

Then, but only then, he would explain that he had adopted a new approach, very different from painting, which is based on a very different (abnormal) use of cameras. Instead of using a camera to copy the real world, which is nowadays the normal use of cameras, he discovered that by appropriately processing (with specific tools that he prefers to keep secret) photographs taken with a camera, he was able to produce those pictures which  eventually were the best way to express what he, as an artist, wanted to tell to his audience (and by the way those pictures were not intended to be a copy of the real world, which is usually the case for normal photographs). He would also add that he was prepared to face criticisms on his abnormal use of cameras, to be misunderstood by the artists community and despised by the photographers community, but that he would expect that, with time, people would understand and accept this new form of artistic expression.

Christophe
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Isaac
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« Reply #47 on: March 28, 2012, 12:33:51 PM »
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In your words it is a representation of the scene but an extremely limited one on lots of levels.

If it wasn't "limited" it would be a duplicate not a representation :-)

A lot of the post-processing work I do is to try and reinfuse the image with what I did see and feel at the time of shooting precisely because the image itself could not capture everything that was present at the moment of capture.

Do you know much about human visual processing?

The relevant difference between the passive record of reflected light and the active directed process of vision is not that "the image itself could not capture everything that was present".

The relevant difference is that the passive record of reflected light does include lots and lots and lots of stuff "that was present at the moment of capture", which you didn't care about at the time and don't care about now - and your active directed vision wasn't even looking at that stuff.
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Tony Jay
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« Reply #48 on: March 28, 2012, 05:27:30 PM »
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Yes, I do understand a fair bit about visual processing.

Medical degree and other degrees in biological sciences so not a newbie there.

Your points don't at all detract from the point that I am making and may in fact partly validate it.
None of us are writing didactic essays covering every possible nuance of what we are communicating.

My point still stands that a photographic image, of necessity, is an impoverished representation of reality.

Regards

Tony Jay
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Isaac
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« Reply #49 on: March 28, 2012, 05:35:27 PM »
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My point still stands that a photographic image, of necessity, is an impoverished representation of reality.
How does your point help you make photographs where the attention of someone looking at the photograph goes to those same things that gained your attention at the scene?
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Isaac
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« Reply #50 on: March 28, 2012, 05:41:34 PM »
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Let's imagine that Alain Briot, for his next article, introduces himself as an artist.

I'm afraid that whatever comments I make about the essay will be misinterpreted and misunderstand to be criticisms of Alain Briot. So let's be clear - it's fine with me that collectors purchase his work and enable him to make a living doing what he love's. I have no axe to grind there. None.

The difficulty is that the essay is written in a very personal way and any disagreement with what was written will seem to reflect as criticism on the writer. So remember - my intention is to comment on what was written, not to attack the writer.

In fact, I prefer to believe that I've simply misunderstood parts of the essay:

  • Artistic License -- "As a fine artist I have little interest in documenting reality as it is around me.  I see reality everyday and the last thing I want to do is to create reality-like images to hang on my walls.  If I want reality all I need to do is look out of the window.  Therefore, when I create art my goal is to create something other than reality.  My goal is to express myself without much concern for whether or not what I am depicting in my photographs is real or not real."

    I suppose we should read that as rhetorical hyberbole.

    Otherwise it seems to express such dismal lack of interest in the landscape, that we should expect the landscape images to express nothing more than ennui.

  • Artistic License -- "Personally, my goal is to express myself and provide my audience with images that convey a vision of nature not available elsewhere. In that regard I may be distancing myself from the main direction taken by landscape photography and getting closer to non-photographic art medium such as painting."

    What about that goal would not be appropriate (for want of better cliché) to Ansel Adams?

    "... Gütschow starts like a painter with a blank canvas."

  • Artistic License -- "Using meaning as a qualifier for fine art is even more superficial than using content.  What is meaningful to some is meaningless to others."

    Written words are meaningless to some - those unfortunate enough to be illiterate.
    Numbers are meaningless to some - those unfortunate enough to be innumerate.
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Tony Jay
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« Reply #51 on: March 28, 2012, 06:13:17 PM »
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The point is that the raw image does not necessarily encompass everything that I wish to communicate. Because I was there I have a feel for the place where I was shooting. As good as the camera is and as informed as my shooting technique is (admittedly there is always room for improvement here) the simple fact is that an image that comes out of the camera is always much less than my experience of the location.

I do not change skies or add things to my images.
However the way that I handle tone and contrast, colour, regional manipulations, and even cropping in post-processing can dramatically change the feel of the image hopefully to more fully reflect what I felt and saw.
It is not true to assume that all the elements of my composition in camera will be appreciated or noticed by others.
It is likely that should one allow several Lr or PS savvy individuals who were present during ones shoot to post-process the same image that they would come up with a final results that were radically different from mine.
They would process the image to reflect what they saw and felt.
The base image may still be recognizable in each result yet reflect markedly different experiences and evoke very different responses in viewers of these images.

In a rich landscape composition it is always possible that on reflection certain elements become apparent that may have escaped attention at the time of shooting. By itself though that fact will not change what I have said above.

It is possible that we are talking past each other to a degree and that we share much more in common on the issue.

Regards
Tony Jay
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kencameron
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« Reply #52 on: March 28, 2012, 06:14:33 PM »
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The relevant difference is that the passive record of reflected light does include lots and lots and lots of stuff "that was present at the moment of capture", which you didn't care about at the time and don't care about now - and your active directed vision wasn't even looking at that stuff.

I am not sure how much real disagreement there is at this point. Speaking personally, post-processing is sometimes about making the print or on-screen image effectively convey the elements which I noticed when I took the picture and which made me decide it was worth the trouble of pressing the button.  At the most basic level, the raw file on my screen may fall  short of conveying the detail I perceived in the sky and the  shadows. Four cheers for LR4. Or, moving into more controversial territory, I may now notice in the raw file elements - stray branches, coke cans, signs of human intrusion in an otherwise pristine wilderness - which I didn't notice at the time, because my "directed active vision" was elsewhere and which, in the print etc, would distract from what I did notice and now want to convey. Then, "Edit in Adobe Photoshop CS5" and a dilemma around "artistic licence" - but is it an aesthetic dilemma or an ethical dilemma - or both -  is there a difference? At other times I may find in the raw file something totally unrelated to anything I noticed at the time, and decide that is what I now want to convey. Heavy cropping sometimes takes me in that direction and if it takes me far enough then I may end up a long way outside the domain of reproducing a particular scene, and in a place where issues about artistic license do not arise - at least for me.
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dreed
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« Reply #53 on: March 28, 2012, 11:45:05 PM »
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In fact, I prefer to believe that I've simply misunderstood parts of the essay:

  • Artistic License -- "As a fine artist I have little interest in documenting reality as it is around me.  I see reality everyday and the last thing I want to do is to create reality-like images to hang on my walls.  If I want reality all I need to do is look out of the window.  Therefore, when I create art my goal is to create something other than reality.  My goal is to express myself without much concern for whether or not what I am depicting in my photographs is real or not real."

No, I don't think so. The above says a lot about the person who wrote it.

Principally, what the writer failed to grasp is that nobody else looks out their windows every day except them.

Thus what may be common place and ordinary to them may be startling and exceptional to someone else.

Even a photo as mundane as that of the street and house you live in may be startling and amazing to someone that has spent their whole life in a place like NYC.

For artists that need to sell their work to make a living, what becomes important to them is tuning their output to match the desires and likes of those looking to buy. The follow on question from that is how does the photographic work required to produce an income that infect their personal endevours and choices? Do they evolve into something where the two become the same or do they always remain separate but infected each way?
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Justan
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« Reply #54 on: March 29, 2012, 10:48:26 AM »
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I enjoyed the essay and also the thread. Great comments on all parts!

What seems to be a core distinction is the role of perceived reality compared to figurative representations which is the defining quality of a photograph, or any image for that matter.

If anyone is interested in this kind of topic, albeit on a slightly different track, I encourage the reading of Michel Foucault’s This Is Not a Pipe.




Article


 
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Isaac
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« Reply #55 on: March 29, 2012, 01:35:13 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.

Photography has been so multifarious that I think both those claims can be seen as more-or-less correct:

  • otoh -- "The mid-1850s marked a turning point in the practice and definition of photography. Until this time, photographic societies had been dominated by aristocrats, gentlemen, educated and successful businessmen, artists and photographers who had trained as artists ... who shunned commercial photographers. Increasingly, however, photographers came from less-educated ranks, and the new professionals transformed photography both technologically and in terms of the values they and their audience hoped and expected to find in photographs. One feature of the change in practice they brought about can be seen quite clearly in their preference for highly articulated, well-resolved pictures in which the suggestiveness and the relative absence of finish so much favoured by devotees of the picturesque was replaced by an absolute precision of delineation through all represented planes. ..." p180

    "By the mid-1860s, photography had entered into popular culture, characterized as a utilitarian medium, primarily useful for purposes of documentation because of its contingency upon nature and natural processes. ..." p181

    "Thus the photographer's achievement [1860's popular culture] does not involve the sensitivity of an artist's eye or the use of an artist's imagination or the intelligent choice of the right depictive conventions; rather it rests on the technical capacity to record a sight that is understood to be a natural image of nature." p183

    Territorial Photography, Joel Snyder.


  • otoh --  [1857-59] "Le Gray innovated by successively printing parts of two negatives onto the same proof: a landscape and the sky of his choice, photographed elsewhere. He applied this technique to his marines in particular, taking advantage of the flat horizon line that eased the joining of two negatives, thereby emphasizing the horizon's presence and strengthening the force of the resultant image. The effect is stunning... The critics sang his praises, and his photographs of the sea were often exhibited and sought after." p50 [My emphasis]

    Reproducing Reality: Landscape photography of the 1850s and 1860s in relation to the paintings of Gustave Courbet, Dominique de Font-Réaulx.


...most of these machines being cellphones ...I think it's fair to say that the overwhelming majority ... have an expectation of a scene manipulated only by the machine...

Ummm photo editing and effects apps for iPhones seem very popular.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2012, 01:56:02 PM by Isaac » Logged
Isaac
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« Reply #56 on: March 29, 2012, 04:32:05 PM »
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It is possible that we are talking past each other to a degree...

Yes, I've not been trying to suggest that representations are not "limited" - I've been trying to suggest that emphasising the "limited" nature of representations leaves us blind to gorillas in the room.

One of those gorillas is the state we bring to "the moment of capture" - hungry, tired, sad, giddy, curious, trying to answer a specific question...

If it was possible to step into "the same moment of capture" with different feelings then I don't think it would be surprising if we came away with quite a different "feel for the place" each time but the same passive record of reflected light.

And then there's the selective attention gorilla.
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aduke
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« Reply #57 on: March 29, 2012, 04:46:04 PM »
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What a fascinating exercise. I missed the gorilla even though I knew it would be there.

Thanks for the link,

Alan
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Tony Jay
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« Reply #58 on: March 29, 2012, 06:39:50 PM »
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This thread is much like a Borg-MacEnroe tennis match.

Never boring and certainly never predictable.

Regards

Tony Jay
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John Camp
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« Reply #59 on: March 29, 2012, 11:58:42 PM »
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I probably shouldn't do this, but having dragged Ansel Adams into the discussion, I will take the next logical step and drag in Jesus Christ. And I do this simply as a thought problem for those interested in photography.

Jesus is a big deal; even as the world grows more secular, his image still has a lot of power. This has been expressed for some two thousand years in paintings, right up to the modern era (see Salvador Dali.) Everybody knows that those paintings do not represent an effort to reproduce the actual image of Jesus as a person, yet they were produced for centuries, and often with great feeling and artistic integrity.

There have been few attempts to portray Jesus' crucifixion in photography (although there have been a few.) Most of those attempts have drawn nothing but ridicule. (We don't count motion picture photography here, for reasons that would be tiresome to get into, and somewhat beside the point.)

But why do paintings of the crucifixion often draw reverence, while photographs draw ridicule? Again, I think we have to consider what the overwhelming majority of people consider the central tenet of the photograph: that it is a representation of reality. And taking a photograph of an actor or a model in an effort to elicit reverence or some other reaction just seems foolish. (Piss Christ doesn't count as an image of the crucifixion; it's a photo of an object that depicts the crucifixion, which is a different matter.)

Even as serious, empirical, secular photographers (most of you), don't you think there is a difference between a painting of the crucifixion and a photograph? Of course you do. The intriguing question is, why do you think that?
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