Luminous Landscape Forum

Site & Board Matters => About This Site => Topic started by: Tom Frerichs on March 23, 2012, 12:32:33 PM

Title: Artistic License
Post by: Tom Frerichs on March 23, 2012, 12:32:33 PM
A well-reasoned, well-written essay, which of course gets my approval because I agree with Mr. Briot's thesis.

His defense of license in his nature photography reminds me of Bertolt Brecht's comment about a similar license taken by playwrights: "God writes lousy theater."

Tom
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Christoph C. Feldhaim on March 23, 2012, 03:37:17 PM
Great piece.
I hope it will save us from many silly discussions.
Thanks Alan for writing this up.
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Isaac on March 23, 2012, 03:47:08 PM
His defense of license in his nature photography reminds me of Bertolt Brecht's comment about a similar license taken by playwrights: "God writes lousy theater."

Except that Nature obviously does provide gloriously luminous landscapes.
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: wolfnowl on March 23, 2012, 04:39:38 PM
Well written, indeed.  As the old argument goes (and no, this is NOT an invitation to renew it!!), if someone was to set up a blank canvas and paint it, no one would question whether or not the scene looked 'EXACTLY' like the painting.  The same is not often said of photography.  For journalism, forensics and some other fields, exact duplication is a necessity.  For art, it isn't.

Mike.
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Rob C on March 23, 2012, 06:22:01 PM
Why does the opening line from this song come to mind?

http://youtu.be/zbxsmcT7GOk

;-)

Rob C
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Eric Myrvaagnes on March 23, 2012, 10:30:14 PM
It's Alain's best essay yet, IMHO.

My only problem with it is: I wish I'd written it! I found myself agreeing with every point (quite embarrassing).

Eric
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Michael LS on March 24, 2012, 12:38:39 PM
Yes, this was a great read all the way, and clarified many Truths.
In particular, I liked the point made about how digital makes it easier
to work in different styles, and yet that also opens up the potential
for "too much diversity". Each artist must decide when too much is
"too much". I do think society has an insecure need to slap labels on
artists, and expect them to do just one thing...forever.

I like that Alain is brave enough to risk that himself, by his interest
in shooting other subjects besides his signature landscapes.
The freedom to explore the world with our cameras, in a variety of ways,
seems to keep the fun and mystery intact.

As for manipulating images, we all have our personal parameters on
this. I've found if I captured beautiful light to begin with, I can stay
very minimal in post processing, such as levels, saturation, etc.

As for, say, cloning, I will always clone out a soft drink can, or bit of this or
that if it detracts in some way, and if it has nothing to do with the subtext
of the photograph, which leads back to the "style and diversity" issue.
However, I won't clone to the degree that I'm re-creating a large part
of the original shot. Again, it's a personal choice.

The only part of Alain's essay I really disagree with is his unwillingness
to use Ford Econoline tires on his Veyron. To extend the life of the
oem tires, I often use the van tires on my Veyron during everyday operation.
While they do look weird, and some might say I'm being "penney wise
and pound foolish", I've found the van tires to work just fine. Ok, at
200 mph they may get a bit "squirrely", and I suppose I should keep my
speed down when doing grocery runs. Still, I will always swap back to
the oems when planning any serious stuff, such as the outrunning of
policemen, and performing dangerous maneuvers in heavy traffic.
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: walterk on March 24, 2012, 02:09:02 PM
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.
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Slobodan Blagojevic on March 24, 2012, 02:23:04 PM
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

While my photographs belong more to the "fungible" than "forensic", or, in my terms, I tend to be more a photoshoppographer™ than a photographer, I can not deny that even I would place a higher value to an image visually similar to mine that was achieved with less manipulation.
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Isaac on March 24, 2012, 10:50:32 PM
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: dreed on March 24, 2012, 11:30:39 PM
Where does this stop/start?

Do you include doing "gardening" before taking a shot? (removing rubbish, etc)

If you're willing to move trees around, why not also have an "add clouds" button so that you can shoot all blue sky pictures and "fix" them later?

Further, how should it be advertised?

Should photographs that have had the contents of the image altered be described in a different way to photos that have not?
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Tony Jay on March 25, 2012, 01:39:30 AM
I enjoyed reading the essay but clearly the subject is not exhausted.

I feel that tonal manipulation, including B&W conversion, tweaking colour, sharpening, noise reduction, cleaning up dust spots, cropping, etc is absolutely appropriate in principle for any image.
Editing out parts of the image and/or replacing parts of the image are perfectly appropriate in their context. Images of the siren dressed in a leather bikini riding atop a Bengal tiger are clearly in the realm of fantasy and no explanation on the part of the image-maker is required.
Changing a sky on a landscape and passing this off as an as-shot image is clearly deceitful no matter how wonderfully aesthetic the final image. If however the potential audience/buyer is aware of the extent of the manipulation there is nothing wrong with the artistic intent if the end result matches the intent.

I appreciate that there is a lot of grey zone between these two examples (chosen I suppose for their polarity) however I do feel that conscience may have to guide what one does with an image.
Some nature photographers feel perfectly free to edit out the plastic Coca Cola bottle in their image where practically it was impossible to remove prior to shooting the image. I, personally have always felt uneasy about doing this and would prefer to change my shot but in the world of professional photography this is not necessarily the answer at all.

I would really like to hear the views of several "old hands" on this issue.

Kind Regards

Tony Jay
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: C Debelmas on March 25, 2012, 03:14:12 AM
"Many of the conflicts and difficulties that photographers experience come from not having clearly defined the purpose of their work".
I feel a big problem also comes from a cultural bias whereby a photograph shall be a record of reality.

There was a time where a photograph was to be a black and white one and where colour photography was vulgar. It seems that this time has gone.

It then took some years (tens of) for the photography to be recognized as a medium for art work. But in the mind of a lot of persons, in the audience mind, even in a lot of photographers' mind, there is another pace to make: when an artistic expression, a photograph is not necesserally a true copy of reality and is "allowed" to be the result of manipulations.

I believe it will take time for this revolution to take place.

Christophe
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Christoph C. Feldhaim on March 25, 2012, 03:56:42 AM
.... Changing a sky on a landscape and passing this off as an as-shot image is clearly deceitful no matter how wonderfully aesthetic the final image. If however the potential audience/buyer is aware of the extent of the manipulation there is nothing wrong with the artistic intent if the end result matches the intent. ....

+1

In my opinion art must be truthful.
This does not exclude manipulation at all, but it requires being truthful towards the buyer/viewer concerning the creation and intention of the work.
Advertising a piece of art implicitly or explicitly as one shot and non-composite and thus claiming a certain sort of authenticity while not doing so is cheating. I am writing "implicitly or explicitly" because indirectly implying a style of authenticity while not doing so is equal to holding back important parts of the truth which is unethical and equivalent to blatant lying.

I'm not expert enough to fully judge the technical aspects of Peter Liks image, but to me it appears there are a couple of good arguments to believe the image at least is a dual shot, if not most likely a composite with a moon taken from elswhere (another time). This greatly contradicts the pathetic writing up which describes the image and gives me a very bad feeling about the whole thing.

So - I feel deceived - at least ...

And apart from that - I really didn't find the image that compelling at all - maybe I subconsciously felt something was wrong ...


Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Tony Jay on March 25, 2012, 04:38:27 AM
I guess that for art to be art that aesthetics cannot be seperated from ethics.


Regards

Tony Jay
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Christoph C. Feldhaim on March 25, 2012, 04:54:38 AM
I guess that for art to be art that aesthetics cannot be seperated from ethics.


Regards

Tony Jay

Yup!

I just realized when answering I suddenly found myself virtually inside that thread about Peter Liks image.
It mixed up in my head.  Just for the reference - here is the link: 
http://www.luminous-landscape.com/forum/index.php?topic=62123.0

Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: pad on March 25, 2012, 05:34:53 AM
Anyone seen how David Hockney uses photography for art? Collages of images that make you look at the world in a different way.

As the comments of some contributors to this thread confirm, you either like the art of the artist [photographer] or you don't, but you certainly cannot say it is wrong. You can only say "this is not my style and I don't like it".

I have found all of Alan's essays interesting and inspiring reading, and hope to read more in the future.
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Rob C on March 25, 2012, 05:38:04 AM
It's like everything in 'art': it's the talking/writing/bitching about it that creates the mystique, builds the gravitas, the myth that it's all about something quite esoteric whereas, in reality, it's just mannered lines/splotches on a medium.

Some people do it well and some do not; some learn ways to do it to order where others completely deny the possibilty, waiting for the combined or individual effects of muse, white powders, divine intervention, or a heavy lunch to throw the switch that cranks into life the machine that produces the goods.

The older I get, the more I come to understand that art is a combination of many things, mostly beyond consciousness, but visceral in that they are usually recognized at first glance. That quality is what denies the 'new' instant credibility. It takes time for the 'new' to become promoted, discussed and otherwise impressed upon the mind of the audience, casual or concerned. So, by extension, almost anything can become 'art' if we have the capacity to employ sufficient publicity on it's behalf.

In the case of the author, Alain, I can appreciate fully that everything he produces has to be, intentionally or not, part of the publicity machine that makes everything tick. I would do exactly the same, had I an axe to grind, a product to promote. I would also calibrate my monitor more often and leave the Big O resting in peace.

Rob C
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Tony Jay on March 25, 2012, 06:14:56 AM
Anything that has an element of art and expression associated with it will inevitably develop a philosophy to describe it.
This process cannot ever be complete even if it appears to stall for a while.

So without debate to challenge the merits and demerits and the boundaries of what we would determine to be art almost by definition it could not be art.

My $0.02 worth.

Regards

Tony Jay
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Tom Frerichs on March 25, 2012, 11:22:14 AM
Quote
in reality, it's just mannered lines/splotches on a medium.


The sculptors will be marching on Rob C's house, pitchforks and torches in hand, on April 1.  Dance to follow.

(evil grin)

Tom
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Rob C on March 25, 2012, 01:38:21 PM

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
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: John Camp on March 25, 2012, 01:48:41 PM
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
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: bill t. on March 25, 2012, 03:09:46 PM
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.
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Slobodan Blagojevic on March 25, 2012, 03:45:40 PM
..."ARTISTIC LICENSE.  Category 5: May manipulate reality without restriction."...

My version: 007: Artistic LICENSE TO KILL (Reality) ;)
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Tony Jay on March 25, 2012, 04:07:34 PM
Keep it coming.

All grist for the mill.

Regards

Tony Jay
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: David Sutton on March 25, 2012, 06:39:16 PM
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.  :)
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.
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Tony Jay on March 25, 2012, 11:57:26 PM
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
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: John R Smith on March 26, 2012, 04:28:40 AM
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
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Rob C on March 26, 2012, 04:50:15 AM
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
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Tony Jay on March 26, 2012, 05:07:03 AM
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
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: kencameron on March 26, 2012, 05:59:04 AM
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.
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: dchew on March 26, 2012, 06:47:57 AM
^ 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
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Tony Jay on March 26, 2012, 07:17:27 AM
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
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: LesPalenik on March 26, 2012, 07:19:14 AM
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.

Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Rob C on March 26, 2012, 10:06:14 AM
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
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Alan Smallbone on March 26, 2012, 10:30:33 AM
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.  ;D 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
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Eric Myrvaagnes on March 26, 2012, 03:35:04 PM
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
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: John Camp on March 26, 2012, 10:45:42 PM
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

 
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Christoph C. Feldhaim on March 27, 2012, 01:59:40 AM
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!
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: David Sutton on March 27, 2012, 04:09:04 AM
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
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: kencameron on March 27, 2012, 05:54:30 AM

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.
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Isaac on March 27, 2012, 08:38:14 PM
... 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:
"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.
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Tony Jay on March 28, 2012, 02:33:51 AM
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
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: C Debelmas on March 28, 2012, 02:50:38 AM
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
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Isaac on March 28, 2012, 01:33:51 PM
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.
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Tony Jay on March 28, 2012, 06:27:30 PM
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
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Isaac on March 28, 2012, 06:41:34 PM
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:

Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Tony Jay on March 28, 2012, 07:13:17 PM
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
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: kencameron on March 28, 2012, 07:14:33 PM
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.
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: dreed on March 29, 2012, 12:45:05 AM
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?
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Justan on March 29, 2012, 11:48:26 AM
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.

(http://foucault.info/documents/img/notapipe/Magritte-pipe.jpg)


Article  (http://www.scribd.com/Johnself2/d/62259472-Foucault-This-is-Not-a-Pipe)


 
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Isaac on March 29, 2012, 02:35:13 PM
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:



...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 (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-paul-caponigro/9-essential-photo-editing_b_1029790.html) seem very popular.
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Isaac on March 29, 2012, 05:32:05 PM
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 (http://www.theinvisiblegorilla.com/gorilla_experiment.html).
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: aduke on March 29, 2012, 05:46:04 PM


And then there's the selective attention gorilla (http://www.theinvisiblegorilla.com/gorilla_experiment.html).

What a fascinating exercise. I missed the gorilla even though I knew it would be there.

Thanks for the link,

Alan
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Tony Jay on March 29, 2012, 07:39:50 PM
This thread is much like a Borg-MacEnroe tennis match.

Never boring and certainly never predictable.

Regards

Tony Jay
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: John Camp on March 30, 2012, 12:58:42 AM
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?
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Tony Jay on March 30, 2012, 01:05:42 AM
I don't know the answer to this question but will be fascinated to read what others think.

Regards

Tony Jay
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Isaac on March 30, 2012, 01:28:10 AM
I probably shouldn't do this, but ...

Perhaps it would suit your purpose just as well to ask where are the photographs of "The Death of Caesar."
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: kencameron on March 30, 2012, 01:43:02 AM
Perhaps it would suit your purpose just as well to ask where are the photographs of "The Death of Caesar."

Indeed. Dr Who might bring back a photograph of the crucifixion. No-one would care about the quality of the photograph - except maybe on this forum. Realistic photographs of re-enactments would have to be understood as just that - images of re-enactments. As such, I don't see why some of them might not be interesting, and others lame, in various ways, although they would they would have to overcome the burden of being unavoidably less interesting than the "real thing" (I mean both a photograph of the real thing, and the thing itself). I find myself imagining one of those staged 19th century photographs in Julia Margaret Cameron style and thinking it might be quite interesting. Can anyone confirm or deny that such a thing was done? On the other hand, non-realistic, heavily post-processed images beginning with photographs of a re-enactment might be viewed in much the same way as paintings. Close ups of thorns, etc. Hard to pull off, but maybe not impossible.
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Isaac on March 30, 2012, 01:58:42 PM
But why do paintings of the crucifixion often draw reverence, while photographs draw ridicule? ... The intriguing question is, why do you think that?
I think you need to provide some examples of which paintings of the crucifixion draw reverence and which photographs of the crucifixion 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.

Firstly, IF it was true that "the overwhelming majority of people consider the central tenet of the photograph [to be]..." we are no closer to knowing what the central tenet of the photograph is - all we'd establish is that the overwhelming majority of people might be wrong.

Secondly, even when photographs are clearly a representation of reality, that doesn't show that "the inherent truth in photography is precise reproduction" or that "the *goal* has always been precise reproduction".

Now I'm tempted to think that those "precise reproduction" claims might be dismissed with one word - bokeh.
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: LesPalenik on March 30, 2012, 02:10:20 PM
Quote
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?
Yes. But there would be also a difference for an oil painting of the first man arriving to Moon and a photograph.
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: John Camp on March 30, 2012, 03:19:56 PM
Yes. But there would be also a difference for an oil painting of the first man arriving to Moon and a photograph.

Absolutely. And you know why? Because paintings are considered to fall short of the photographic representation of the actual event. There *are* paintings of it; but they're considered hokey. Go to Google Images and enter "moon-landing paintings." You'll see what I mean. For some things, photography is considered much more authentic than painting. An authentic painting is more about the artist and his representation of reality -- the key word being artist. When paintings try to duplicate what photographs do, they usually fall short. There are some photo-realist paintings that may not fall short, but as Uncle Ho said about the French Revolution, it's too soon to tell.


I think you need to provide some examples of which paintings of the crucifixion draw reverence and which photographs of the crucifixion draw ridicule.

No, I don't. I'm not teaching a course in art history. But there are several of each.

Perhaps it would suit your purpose just as well to ask where are the photographs of "The Death of Caesar."

That entirely misses the point...or duplicates it. 
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: David Sutton on March 30, 2012, 04:05:27 PM
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?

Painting has many advantages over photography in that it may often be more “realistic” in terms of being closer to the way we see (how we focus and perceive light and shade for example). This is not surprising given the image in a painting comes direct from the brain and not through the medium of an apparatus. I think your thought experiment is not a good example as it is not comparing apples with apples. Paintings with religious themes have a respected history, even if they were often created for political reasons. And as far as I am aware, there is no such pedigree to draw on for photography. Furthermore, while I am not personally in favour of religious symbols (I think they encourage us to stop at the surface) most Christians I know only hold the empty cross as meaningful.
What may work however is to compare the difference between a photograph and a painting of a religious leader. So for example, do you think there is a difference between a photograph of a pope and a painting of him? Do devout Roman Catholics react differently to the two ways of depicting him? How much artistic licence has the photographer taken?  There is probably a Ph.D  here for someone. I'd be interested to know the answers.
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Isaac on March 30, 2012, 05:08:23 PM
No, I don't. I'm not teaching a course in art history. But there are several of each.
You say there are examples and leave us to guess which examples (in your opinion) support your argument. That really isn't persuasive.


Realistic photographs of re-enactments would have to be understood as just that - images of re-enactments.
As one critic noted in 1900 "In looking at a photograph, you cannot forget that it is a representation of something that existed when it was taken."

Untitled (Crucifix with Roman Soldiers) (http://www.jordahlphoto.com/photohistory/modulefour/modulefour10.html)
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Isaac on March 30, 2012, 05:26:39 PM
What may work however is to compare the difference between a photograph and a painting of a religious leader.

Guerrillero Heroico (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guerrillero_Heroico)
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: John Camp on March 30, 2012, 05:46:45 PM
I'd be interested to know the answers.

So would I, if there are any.

About the Pope and paintings... I think the situation there is different -- nobody really thinks the Pope is divine. He's just a big shot, and there are some popes that even devout Catholics didn't much like. The reason I picked the crucifixion is that it's so rife with symbolism, and means so many different things to so many different people, and interpretations change so radically over the ages. The Isenheim Altarpiece was once hung in a hospital to help bring relief from suffering for dying people...now, we look on it with horror, if anything, for its graphic gruesomeness. I think the fact that people take vastly different things from paintings in different times is one criterion for a serious work of [painting] art. But that doesn't really work with photographs, because while (I believe) photography is a serious art form, it is essentially different from painting. As long as people are human and use native vision, I think the meanings of photographs will remain relatively fixed -- when you think of great photographs (choose one) how will the interpretation of that work change in 100 or 200 years?

I haven't thought this all the way through, but I'm tempted to say that the greater the painting, the less fixed is the message; the great the photograph, the more fixed is the message. It's almost impossible to resist the temptation to compare them, but it's possible (to paraphrase and rearrange a witticism by somebody else) that we're trying to compare architecture and dance which, though they both may be art forms, are somewhat, erm, difficult to compare.
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: kencameron on March 30, 2012, 06:45:08 PM
I think you need to provide some examples of which paintings of the crucifixion draw reverence and which photographs of the crucifixion draw ridicule.

Thinking about this, I put "photographs of the crucifixion" into Google Images. Most of what came up were paintings and I was reminded of the richness of that tradition and the quality of the artists who have worked within it. Reverence, certainly, but a range of other reactions - horror, pity, disgust. The photographs fell into a couple of categories. Some photographs of pre-existing images of the crucifixion or of other sights associated with the life of christ - sculptures, the via dolorosa etc - nice enough, some of them, but not exactly deeply moving. Some staged photographs of re-enactments - mostly pretty lame although I thought this (http://www.google.com.au/imgres?start=59&hl=en&sa=X&biw=1920&bih=955&tbs=isz:l&tbm=isch&prmd=imvns&tbnid=dKxYqz4RhJuXjM:&imgrefurl=http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2011/04/holy-week-and-easter-2011/100053/&docid=X8ZFNGKX5yaeQM&imgurl=http://cdn.theatlantic.com/static/infocus/easter042511/e01_RTR2LIR7.jpg&w=1247&h=823&ei=kDF2T4DsLcuJmQXA_MjpDw&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=1360&vpy=634&dur=7478&hovh=182&hovw=276&tx=88&ty=104&sig=112034949188614386345&page=2&tbnh=144&tbnw=192&ndsp=70&ved=1t:429,r:8,s:59) has a certain demented interest, although more as a photograph overtly of a re-enactment, which is something different,  and this (http://www.google.com.au/imgres?start=59&hl=en&sa=X&biw=1920&bih=955&tbs=isz:l&tbm=isch&prmd=imvns&tbnid=yyItOMp9j0KiJM:&imgrefurl=http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2011/04/holy-week-and-easter-2011/100053/&docid=X8ZFNGKX5yaeQM&imgurl=http://cdn.theatlantic.com/static/infocus/easter042511/e07_RTR2LGX2.jpg&w=1247&h=831&ei=kDF2T4DsLcuJmQXA_MjpDw&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=1604&vpy=441&dur=4059&hovh=183&hovw=275&tx=138&ty=85&sig=112034949188614386345&page=2&tbnh=140&tbnw=191&ndsp=70&ved=1t:429,r:31,s:59) too, quite a powerful image IMHO . Some highly symbolic images, not too convincing. Overall, I thought the comparison said more about the relative skills of the painters and photographers who have tackled the subject than about intrinsic differences between the media. Can anyone think of a reputed photographer who has worked on the crucifixion? I suspect Robert Mapplethorpe (sp?) may allude to it, indirectly, here and there.
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Isaac on March 30, 2012, 08:29:11 PM
Thinking about this, I put "photographs of the crucifixion" into Google Images.
You'd already pointed out the answer - "Realistic photographs of re-enactments would have to be understood as just that - images of re-enactments."
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Alan Smallbone on March 30, 2012, 11:42:21 PM
Or possibly the artist could draw in a hyper-realistic format that only looked like a photograph....

http://news.yahoo.com/photos/realistic-drawings-look-like-photographs-1333124926-slideshow/

Funny that this was posted today....

Alan
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: aduke on March 31, 2012, 12:52:56 AM
Or possibly the artist could draw in a hyper-realistic format that only looked like a photograph....

http://news.yahoo.com/photos/realistic-drawings-look-like-photographs-1333124926-slideshow/

Funny that this was posted today....

Alan

Why would someone do this work?

alan
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Alan Smallbone on March 31, 2012, 01:06:35 AM
There is some more details on his website about his hyper realistic drawings..

http://paulcadden.com/

Alan
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: walterk on March 31, 2012, 11:18:28 AM
I don't think it's naive to assume a photograph can provide evidence of certain important aspects of the external world. Just because it can be easily faked or misread, it doesn't mean the documentary potential has no value. A fossil of a feather preserves some characteristics of it size, shape and texture, if lacking in many other ways. Likewise with a black and white photograph of a feather with a ruler placed next to it. Photographs usually need a backstory to support the evidence presented. To a scientist, that may mean tentatively trusting the source of the photograph and how it was taken. In law, it may mean the photographer might have to be called in as a witness.

And I can think of few circumstances in art where the backstory is not important. In the field of painting in the age of photography, it suddenly became important to many to know if a painting was made from life or photographs; in landscape photography in the digital age, the question about manipulation is inevitable. It's not so much of a legal issue, it's simply a way for the viewing public to know something of the artist's intentions, which in turn helps them process what they're looking at. We're human. It's not always just the cold arrangement of things on a surface that's important, but the circumstances of how it was made. Especially when you're serious about buying "fine art".

By invoking "artistic license" and claiming there are no rules, Alain undermines one of the medium's most powerful attributes. He concedes that photography can be used as evidence, but ignores the potential that has for art. The problem is, he works in the vernacular of western landscape photography, right down to the use of  titles of the specific locales they were taken. This kind of work likely attracts a public who are suspect of invented realities. But because Alain has moved a few trees around, stretched the height of a mountain, used false color, and scrubbed tributaries from waterways, he's got the wrong backstory for that public. It also puts him in the position to have to explain that some of the miraculous features in his shots are as he found them, even if he rearranged some trees here and there.

I think most people concerned about manipulation would come to understand that a photographer might amplify atmospheric effects with global moves, exaggerate the effects of light with contrast or "dodge and burn" methods, or that the color of the scene is not the same spectral value as it was the moment the picture was taken. But it's the cut and paste; the moving and/or distorting of major topological features that signals that the artist is not interested in preserving the original fingerprint of the optical projection. This destabilizes one of the chief advantage photography can claim over other arts, however tenuous its connection to reality. The slippery slope of all this leads to photographic confections like "Sugarloaf Rock", by Peter Eastway, the making of which is profiled on this site. It's fine to do this sort of photography, it's just that you have to think about it in a very different context. The growing popularity of this approach is probably why so many people are asking the question about manipulation. But as kencameron suggested at the top of page 3 of this debate, photographers should be careful about complaining. I would add that it's perfectly reasonable to want to know if that breaching whale leaping out of the Antartic ocean (also seen on this site) is connected to an actual event and not a cut and paste job, dropped in from a stock photo found on the internets.
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Slobodan Blagojevic on March 31, 2012, 01:07:39 PM
For anyone still amused by Isaac's relentless philosophical questioning of "what does it mean to be realistic in photography", my humble contribution to the debate: ;)
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Eric Myrvaagnes on April 01, 2012, 12:11:26 AM
Slobodan, I think you nailed it! (Whatever "it" is.)   ;D
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Isaac on April 02, 2012, 01:16:05 PM
Overall, I thought the comparison said more about the relative skills of the painters and photographers who have tackled the subject than about intrinsic differences between the media. Can anyone think of a reputed photographer who has worked on the crucifixion?

reputed photographer (http://www.kenduncan.com/index.php/about-ken) ?

The Passion: photography from the movie The Passion of The Christ (http://books.google.com/books?id=noCGAAAAIAAJ&q=The+Passion:+Photography+from+the+Movie+%22The+Passion+of+the+Christ%22&dq=The+Passion:+Photography+from+the+Movie+%22The+Passion+of+the+Christ%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=5Nl5T4Jl0NyIAp7exKcO&ved=0CDgQ6AEwAA)

(Excellent production values but still a re-enactment.)


Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Isaac on April 02, 2012, 01:26:53 PM
Why would someone do this work? [draw in a hyper-realistic format]

Why would someone make art?

By chance I noticed this book in the local library "Contemporary Drawing: Key Concepts and Techniques" (http://books.google.com/books?id=KeKJ9NrMN64C) -- it's kind-of interesting.
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Isaac on April 02, 2012, 01:52:17 PM
I think that different art forms have inherent truths to them -- the inherent truth in painting or drawing is abstraction (in the broadest sense) ... The inherent truth in photography is precise reproduction...

"Computer manipulation means that it’s no longer possible to believe that a photograph represents a specific object in a specific place at a specific time -- to believe that the object is ‘true’."
David Hockney

Much more than that --

[20 years ago] "From the moment of its sesquicentennial in 1989 photography was dead (http://books.google.com/books?id=2vtuJpdx5_gC&lpg=PA19&dq=the%20reconfigured%20eye%20%22photography%20was%20dead%22&pg=PA19#v=onepage&q&f=false) -- or more precisely, radically and permanently displaced -- as was painting 150 years before."

The inherent truth in digital image making is mutability.
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Isaac on April 02, 2012, 04:48:09 PM
... in landscape photography in the digital age, the question about manipulation is inevitable. ... it's simply a way for the viewing public to know something of the artist's intentions... Especially when you're serious about buying "fine art".

Perhaps that's just reading too much into such questions, here's a shrewd suggestion --

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’.



By invoking "artistic license" and claiming there are no rules, Alain undermines one of the medium's most powerful attributes. ... This destabilizes one of the chief advantage photography can claim over other arts, however tenuous its connection to reality.

Although the essay can be used as a jumping off point for all kinds of discussion - from the different opinions within pictorialism to Is Photography Over? (http://www.sfmoma.org/about/research_projects/research_projects_photography_over?) - there's a much simpler way to read the essay and what the author is saying about his work compared to others' work --

In the case of the author, Alain, I can appreciate fully that everything he produces has to be, intentionally or not, part of the publicity machine that makes everything tick. I would do exactly the same, had I an axe to grind, a product to promote.
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Ben Rubinstein on April 04, 2012, 08:52:46 AM
Every photograph in every newspaper and every magazine and on every news website professes to depict reality. It isn't so strange that the general public view photography as depicting reality in an accurate way to the extent that although I agree with Alain's views of art, the sooner we disassociate our art from the word 'photography' the less annoying questions we will have to answer.

I'm teaching a photography class in a local art school. The photography is only a minor sideline to the main curriculum. I started off like this. 'Photography is the same as painting. We use a camera instead of a brush and light instead of paint.' That isn't however how photography is perceived by the general public.

Just stop using the term 'fine art photography'. It's fine art, period. Our tool of choice for the work is a camera but that's just a side point. On my website I don't mention the word 'photography' once. That is very much on purpose.
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Ben Rubinstein on April 05, 2012, 07:32:01 AM
My fine art website does not mention photography. Not connected, I am teaching photography in a local art school. I've been a full time wedding photographer for a decade and now am heading a large studio shooting repro of ancient manuscripts and books for a museum.
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Christoph C. Feldhaim on April 05, 2012, 07:37:21 AM
My fine art website does not mention photography once. Not connected, I am teaching photography in a local art school. Can I assume your sarcasm has failed?

Quote from: Ben's Homepage
"Timeless Jewish Fine Art Photography"
???
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Ben Rubinstein on April 05, 2012, 09:30:49 AM
Ha I'd forgotten that was there, was originally put there 3 years ago when I made the site, thanks for that catch, I will fix that soon! One tends to not focus on stuff like the main banner after all this time!

Aaargh, the web man changed hosting on me and now I can't get in. Trying to get through to him now...
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Ben Rubinstein on April 05, 2012, 09:53:35 AM
Fixed, thanks!

Now have to do the title bar on each page, pain. I got rid of all the photography reference stuff about 9 months ago, mainly due to the problems it brought. How do you explain that you are not 'photoshopping' your picture (i.e. faking it in their mind) when you are shooting complex stitches with only one stitch containing a moving element, i.e. a person. No not every element of the picture existed at that same moment, it would fail as a true photograph but who cares? If I could sketch I would never pick up a camera again for my personal work.
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Christoph C. Feldhaim on April 05, 2012, 02:12:48 PM
My suggestion for Ben (Since his website banner now looks somewhat castrated):

"Timeless Jewish Fine Art Imaging"

Copyright to use this phrase is herewith granted, Ben !

Cheers
~Chris
Title: Re: Artistic License
Post by: Isaac on April 12, 2012, 02:08:06 PM
The reason I picked the crucifixion is that it's so rife with symbolism, and means so many different things to so many different people, and interpretations change so radically over the ages. The Isenheim Altarpiece was once hung in a hospital to help bring relief from suffering for dying people...now, we look on it with horror, if anything, for its graphic gruesomeness.

afaict The 8 panels of the Isenheim Altarpiece were commissioned for the church of a monastery that housed a hospice for mainly terminal victims of the plague.

Interpretation of the iconography is controversial because it isn't certain which day which panel was opened, or what purpose each stage served. The performance for which the paintings were designed has been lost, the original meaning has been lost. So interpretation of one panel, showing Christ's suffering on the Cross, as intended to produce a bond of sympathy with the suffering of the plague victims; and interpretation of another panel, showing the clean body of the Risen Christ, as intended to suggest their freedom from pain and disease in the hereafter, is speculation.


I think the fact that people take vastly different things from paintings in different times is one criterion for a serious work of [painting] art. But that doesn't really work with photographs, because while (I believe) photography is a serious art form, it is essentially different from painting. As long as people are human and use native vision, I think the meanings of photographs will remain relatively fixed -- when you think of great photographs (choose one) how will the interpretation of that work change in 100 or 200 years?

Timothy O'Sullivan's 1870s photographs of record from the Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel re-interpreted as art during the 1930's and 40's.

Sebastião Salgado's 1984/5 photojournalism of the Sahel famine mostly unpublished in the US until 1990 when it was re-interpreted as art and exhibited at SFMOMA (http://books.google.com/books?id=6wqcR6y0HpcC&lpg=PA134&ots=SV752leFnT&dq=%22In%201984%20and%201985%2C%20the%20brazilian%20photographer%22&pg=PA134#v=onepage&q=%22In%201984%20and%201985,%20the%20brazilian%20photographer%22&f=false).

In 100 years will anyone remain who can believe that photographs were once expected to represent a specific object in a specific place at a specific time? In 100 years will anyone understand a photograph as more than a still frame from a lost video commercial?