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Author Topic: Still a photograph?  (Read 12570 times)
marvpelkey
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« on: November 01, 2012, 10:00:35 PM »
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As a bit of a lead-in, my photographic roots are in traditional photography (film, with virtually no manipulation beyond that done at the lab). However, some time after moving to digital photography, I dabbled in post-processing techniques. I, eventually, after witnessing the various techniques being more readily accepted, started using more drastic measures, all while struggling with the question of what's "too much". So, I offer an image for comment/opinion, with the following proviso - nothing has been done to this image that has not been done routinely in both the traditional darkroom and/or photoshop. The only real difference is where some techniques were done at +1, I pushed the same to perhaps +6. This includes: motion blur, compositing and cloning, colour and tone dodging and burning, saturation boost, colour change (no diff than sepia, selenium toning etc). This image is a composite of, I believe, 4 different photographs, plus the above manipulations. So, is this still a photograph or does the degree of traditional "massaging" have a bearing on it's status? Comments? Opinions?

Marv
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Fips
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« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2012, 03:16:24 AM »
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So, is this still a photograph or does the degree of traditional "massaging" have a bearing on it's status? Comments? Opinions?

If it's a composition I would just refer to it as an "image" rather than a photograph. But does it really matter? Unless you want to enter a wildlife photography contest you can do to your photograph whatever you want.
But then again I also don't understand why you are stressing that you restricted the processing to sort of what one would have been able to to in the darkroom. I often hear people emphasize this as if it would guarantee some special quality which otherwise is lost. IMHO photographer tend to think too much inside the box, i.e. solely in terms of photography. If you have a clear idea of what you want to show, why not simply go for it without worrying if it's still photography?

Sorry, if that sounded like a rant. Wasn't meant to be. I just didn't have my yet coffee this morning.  Wink
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LoisWakeman
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« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2012, 07:12:56 AM »
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Marv - have you considered adding ICM (intentional camera movement) to the mix? That fits in with your philosophy of stuff that can be done in the darkroom and often gives more interesting results that post-processing blur, which can be rather sterile vs the organic (but unpredictable) ICM blur..

As for this  - it started in camera so it's a photo. Period.

However, the disjoint between the blurred waves and the sharper foreground (and to a lesser extent, the birds) is less convincing.
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Isaac
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« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2012, 12:16:49 PM »
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Sorry, if that sounded like a rant. Wasn't meant to be. I just didn't have my yet coffee this morning.

Not even slightly like a rant ;-)
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2012, 12:36:50 PM »
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... is this still a photograph...

I like it, regardless of how one classifies it.

If one needs to resort to a label, say for the purpose of a photographic competition, it would be probably "digital art," "fine art," or similar. Often photographic competitions have categories, one of which would be as stated. But it would still be a part of a photographic competition. Some competitions would outright state that compositing and heavy post-processing is allowed, regardless of category. Other photographic competitions would not accept it at all, e.g., National Geographic. All fair enough.

The bottom line being: do what you have to do to express yourself. Worry about labeling only if you are entering a competition.
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Kirk Gittings
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« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2012, 12:39:07 PM »
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Look at this guys work-it runs the gamut from "stright" photography to "constructed" images. He refers to his work as "photographic arts", which in my mid is perfectly appropriate. http://www.chrisjordan.com/gallery/midway/#CF000313%2018x24
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louoates
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« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2012, 02:05:02 PM »
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Way too much angst about "true" photography definitions. Use the camera as a tool to express your ideas no matter who likes it or doesn't.
Extreme Example Warning: The worst example of all this purist garbage came from a photographer who was trying to sell horribly printed photographs at an art show. When I asked why there were so many blown highlights and mud filled shadows the answer was that that was what the film caught and thus was "true" photography. The photographer then went on to pooh pooh all things digital and that even the use of a light meter was unauthentic photography. Yes, there are still a few of this type out there.
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JBerardi
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« Reply #7 on: November 02, 2012, 02:32:07 PM »
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But then again I also don't understand why you are stressing that you restricted the processing to sort of what one would have been able to to in the darkroom. I often hear people emphasize this as if it would guarantee some special quality which otherwise is lost. IMHO photographer tend to think too much inside the box, i.e. solely in terms of photography.

It's a bit like getting a flying car but not using it because commuter traffic is what true driving is all about.
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Fips
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« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2012, 02:49:18 PM »
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That's a very nice analogy!  Cheesy
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marvpelkey
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« Reply #9 on: November 02, 2012, 09:14:43 PM »
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Good comments, all.

Perhaps my use of the word "struggling" caused some confusion. I, certainly, have no angst over this issue. As I noted, I started out in traditional film photography and due to more exposure (no pun intended) to some "purists", I maintained a close relationship to the philosophy of as little manipulation as possible. As digital came around, I became aware of, and started using, digital manipulation. In fact, I currently market some of my work that is quite similar to the example I posted (funny enough the market is home decor, like one can get from IKEA - as mentioned in another thread I participated in).

Another image, also similar to the example, I attempted to enter in a local photo contest (with few rules on any restrictions) and the image was rejected.

I am comfortable with my personal view on "photography" but was merely offering the post to spark conversation and see where others stood, considering the proliferation of digital altering tools that now make it so easy to alter a photograph.

Marv
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wolfnowl
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« Reply #10 on: November 02, 2012, 10:55:37 PM »
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I like it, regardless of how one classifies it.

If one needs to resort to a label, say for the purpose of a photographic competition, it would be probably "digital art," "fine art," or similar. Often photographic competitions have categories, one of which would be as stated. But it would still be a part of a photographic competition. Some competitions would outright state that compositing and heavy post-processing is allowed, regardless of category. Other photographic competitions would not accept it at all, e.g., National Geographic. All fair enough.

The bottom line being: do what you have to do to express yourself. Worry about labeling only if you are entering a competition.

What he said... me too!  Grin

Mike.
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« Reply #11 on: November 03, 2012, 04:32:34 PM »
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+1
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PDobson
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« Reply #12 on: November 06, 2012, 11:31:31 PM »
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As for this  - it started in camera so it's a photo. Period.

I'd like to pose an extreme example based on that premise. More a thought experiment than anything.

This image began as a photograph of a lupine growing out of a sand dune. I then isolated the profile of the plant to use as my logo. The blade etch could be considered a monochromatic photographic print. Later, I modified the silhouette  in Photoshop to a simpler, more shapely form.

The first image is definitely a photo. Is the first etch a "photographic print" on steel? If so, what about the final image? I definitely started with a photo, and I only used standard photo editing techniques. At what point does it cease to be a photo?

Phillip


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LoisWakeman
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« Reply #13 on: November 07, 2012, 03:31:23 AM »
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Is the first etch a "photographic print" on steel? If so, what about the final image? I definitely started with a photo, and I only used standard photo editing techniques. At what point does it cease to be a photo?

That's a difficult one - as with all extremes, sometimes the answer is obvious and sometimes it isn't. The first 2 are I think - prints on metal (and glass, and ...) were common in past times, after all.

When you have turned a photographic silhouette into a graphic by moving pixels about* then I am not so sure - "standard editing techniques" for a photographer and a graphic designer might be different?

* So, if I took a photo and used one of those squizz-type filters that pushes the image about - is that still a photo? And you can do the same with a fresh polaroid too...  Huh

I guess the answer is, it all depends - on the image, and the reaction of the person looking at it.

Do you see the image that started this thread as a photograph?
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PDobson
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« Reply #14 on: November 07, 2012, 09:40:42 AM »
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I would say that a "photograph" should represent the content captured by a camera. A photograph requires a lens, a camera (box), and a light sensitive plane. It does not require a darkroom or a computer. The purpose of processing is to improve the photograph and make it a useable format. You don't create a photograph in the darkroom.

If the meaning of the original content is lost, it ceases to be a photo. This alteration could be done in a darkroom using "traditional" techniques or in a computer. For Example: using scissors to  superimpose your Nessie toy onto a negative of your local lake completely changes the content from what the camera created. Now it's a photographic composite. I think that the image in the OP's post is in the same category.

There's a weird loophole in this definition:, in-camera compositing. If compositing occurs in-camera, before processing, it still fits the definition of a photograph. Double exposures on film are a good example. The question then is: what about digital? The term "before processing" gives us the answer. Digital cameras also contain mini-darkrooms of sorts, so it's tough to tell if the image was created by the lens/box/sensor combo, or in processing. If you could double-expose a single RAW file, it would fit the same definition as double exposure on film.

I also think that when an artist washes photographic prints in strange chemicals causing the colors to bleed and create abstract patterns, that he is creating "visual art". The image created by the camera is completely lost in abstraction.

I had never thought of my blade logos as photos, despite the fact that I started with a photo. Though, by a broad definition, the first logo does qualify as a photographic print. I have no experience in graphic design, so in both logos, I had to use the same photoshop commands I use editing photographs.

As far as our art goes, this definition doesn't matter. But it does affect our perception. That's why we have words like, "photograph", "painting", "rendering", and "drawing". The visual results could be identical, but the way we arrive at that result matters. It says something about the artist. Take a look at the reactions a photo-realistic painting gets. It would would have been easier just to take a photo, in fact, the artist probably started with a photo as reference. It's the time and skill that the artist applied to the painting that really impresses, even if the finished image is identical to a photograph.

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SunnyUK
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« Reply #15 on: December 03, 2012, 10:55:17 AM »
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Maybe we should go completely back to the roots. The word photograph is made up of photo (light) and graph (drawing, writing), so it is "an image created by light", regardless of whether a camera, darkroom, computer, etc has been involved in the creation.  As such, I think the OP's image is a photograph.
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petermfiore
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« Reply #16 on: December 03, 2012, 10:57:36 AM »
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Maybe we should go completely back to the roots. The word photograph is made up of photo (light) and graph (drawing, writing), so it is "an image created by light", regardless of whether a camera, darkroom, computer, etc has been involved in the creation.  As such, I think the OP's image is a photograph.


Agreed.

Peter
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Michael West
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« Reply #17 on: January 01, 2013, 05:03:57 PM »
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 It is very much a photograph .
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fike
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« Reply #18 on: January 04, 2013, 06:38:50 AM »
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I think we get caught up worrying about the HOW of making imagees instead of worrying about whether the work is a faithful rendering of the real world or an interpretive rendering of a fantasy. 

In this case, you have a very well done composite that is a fantasy.  That's okay. I love it and as long as you are honest about what it is, i see no problem making and selling these images.

As for whether the technique is done in darkroom, camera, or photoshop, it doesn't matter.  Extremee motion blur in camera is not a particularly faithful rendering of the real world, but somehow people consider it an realistic form of photographic expression.  It is not, despite the fact that it can be beautiful. 

Worry about honestly representing your work (whether it is an interpretive composite or an image that adheres to photo-journalistic ethics), the technical methods are irrelevant to that categorization.
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Fike, Trailpixie, or Marc Shaffer
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« Reply #19 on: January 11, 2013, 07:10:32 PM »
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Nice work!

 Smiley Smiley Smiley
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