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Author Topic: Art vs. Authenticity?  (Read 5646 times)

John Koerner

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Art vs. Authenticity?
« on: February 18, 2016, 11:40:47 am »

It seems there is a disparity in values between Art versus Authenticity in both nature and landscape photography.

The prevailing thinking is, "I can do anything I want," in order to produce an artistic image (Photoshop what I want, position subjects how I want, remove in post what I want, etc.)

However, purists believe that, in order to call a photograph nature photography, any such manipulation is off-limits. E.g.:
  • If I set up a bird feeder, and take photos of the birds it attracts to my backyard, is this really "nature" photography … or home-studio photography?
  • If I capture a jumping spider, and place it on a leaf, positioning and repositioning until I get the shot right, is this really "nature photography" ... or, again, home-studio photography?
  • If I go to a beautiful, scenic place, take a nice photograph, but decided some set of rocks (or flowers, or people, etc.) "don't belong" ... and so I Photoshop them out ... Is this now an authentic image, or is it now somewhat counterfeit?
I guess my questions are:
  • Does every image have to be perfect?
  • Is there something to be valued for the authenticity of imperfection?
  • Shouldn't a truly perfect image, taken authentically, with no artificial manipulation to create it, nor any Photoshop removal to maintain it, be held to a higher regard than an imperfect image "made perfect" through manipulation/Photoshop?
  • Should there be disclaimers/admissions as to any manipulation/Photoshopping done to create an image versus images that are truly in situ, umanipulated and unaltered through Photoshop (regular adjustments in post, sharpening and such, notwithstanding)?

Thoughts?
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: Art vs. Authenticity?
« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2016, 11:48:56 am »

N
Y
Y
Y

John Koerner

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Re: Art vs. Authenticity?
« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2016, 12:06:21 pm »

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Jeremy Roussak

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Re: Art vs. Authenticity?
« Reply #3 on: February 18, 2016, 12:36:26 pm »

Is navel-gazing useful?

Jeremy
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: Art vs. Authenticity?
« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2016, 01:13:10 pm »

What about the first 3?

Bird feeder - it is a backyard photography. No, seriously, there are numerous competitions with that category, including the famed Smithsonian-sponsored one.

Jumping spider - it is a captive wildlife photography, again, a lot of competitions with that category

Photoshopped scenic - neither authentic, nor counterfeit, simply fine art

NancyP

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Re: Art vs. Authenticity?
« Reply #5 on: February 18, 2016, 01:42:34 pm »

It all depends on what you are trying to demonstrate in the photograph. Anatomy of the spider? Posing is fine. Behavior of spider in normal hunting? Photograph it as you found it (flash is OK).
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Isaac

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Re: Art vs. Authenticity?
« Reply #6 on: February 18, 2016, 01:47:43 pm »

It seems there is a disparity in values between Art versus Authenticity in both nature and landscape photography.

There are disparate ideas about Art -- "Thinking Art: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Art" -- which bring with them disparate ideas about authenticity, and different answers to your questions.

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John Koerner

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Re: Art vs. Authenticity?
« Reply #7 on: February 18, 2016, 02:46:16 pm »

It all depends on what you are trying to demonstrate in the photograph. Anatomy of the spider? Posing is fine. Behavior of spider in normal hunting? Photograph it as you found it (flash is OK).

I actually believe ALL have their purpose ;D

What I don't like are people acting as if their staged, edited images can be held in the same regard as a truly authentic, natural photograph.
(To me its the difference between hitting a "home run" from a T-ball setup ... versus hitting a homerun from a Nolan Ryan fastball ...)

I also don't see the need to disparage a truly authentic photograph because a "rock" or "flower" was not removed from the image.
It may not be absolutely perfect, but if it authentically and un-manipulatedly approaches perfection it should be admired as an honest effort.
IMO, imperfection itself is part of the story (as well as open to interpretation: why did those flowers grow there?, etc.).

Speaking of the anatomy of the spider, sometimes the only way to ID spiders is to take a ventral-view photograph and submit the photo to a scientist.
The photo may not be "art," nor even be that good, but if it facilitates the ID then it served its purpose.

However, if Photographer A takes a razor-sharp image of a spider's underside, while holding it in a glass jar (Difficulty Level = 0);
While Photographer B takes a nearly-razor-sharp image of a spider's underside, naturally, while crossing from one leaf to another (Difficulty Level = 10) ...

Can you hold the image quality expectations to the same level?
Which is the image that should be in a nature magazine or book ...?

Jack
« Last Edit: February 18, 2016, 02:50:15 pm by John Koerner »
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Isaac

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Re: Art vs. Authenticity?
« Reply #8 on: February 18, 2016, 03:20:01 pm »

What I don't like…

No doubt others see things differently.
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John Koerner

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Re: Art vs. Authenticity?
« Reply #9 on: February 18, 2016, 03:25:34 pm »

No doubt others see things differently.

With more than 7.4 billion people in the world, it is not surprising 'others' might see things differently.

Just curious, though, if you could answer the last 2 questions, honestly.
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Isaac

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Re: Art vs. Authenticity?
« Reply #10 on: February 18, 2016, 03:42:20 pm »

Just curious, though, if you could answer the last 2 questions, honestly.

It's just rude to suggest that others will not answer you honestly.


Can you hold the image quality expectations to the same level?
Which is the image that should be in a nature magazine or book ...?

Yes.

A (if that suits the purpose of the nature magazine or book author -- it's their "should").

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maddogmurph

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Re: Art vs. Authenticity?
« Reply #11 on: February 18, 2016, 04:20:16 pm »

Why not just be yourself and do what you enjoy. Photography is an illusion. It's a representation. It inspires thought in the viewers mind. There's nothing real about a photograph, other than the ink on the paper. The debate between modification and authenticity is a waste of time, nearly every photograph you've greatly admired has had post processing (even in the dark room), and if not hats off to the lucky SOB photographer. I'd love to take all my shots without bracketing or focus stacking and have the photo come out perfect every time. Just don't misrepresent yourself or your images.
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John Koerner

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Re: Art vs. Authenticity?
« Reply #12 on: February 18, 2016, 04:44:16 pm »

It's just rude to suggest that others will not answer you honestly.

Not really. Your own answer (below) proves my point about a lack of honesty in many responses.



Yes.

I refuse to believe that you are being honest here. (At the very least, you're not thinking deeply.) It defies anything genuine to suggest that getting a clear, perfect photograph of the underside of a spider while it is sitting motionless in a jar carries with it the same difficulty level as trying to obtain an in situ, unmanipulated photo of a spider's underside, in the wild, in a fleeting moment while it is crossing from one leaf to another.



A (if that suits the purpose of the nature magazine or book author -- it's their "should").

Have to agree here.
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John Koerner

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Re: Art vs. Authenticity?
« Reply #13 on: February 18, 2016, 04:52:35 pm »

Why not just be yourself and do what you enjoy.

I can't be anything but myself. Sadly.

And, unfortunately, my work schedule precludes me from doing what I enjoy, most of the time.



Photography is an illusion. It's a representation. It inspires thought in the viewers mind. There's nothing real about a photograph, other than the ink on the paper. The debate between modification and authenticity is a waste of time, nearly every photograph you've greatly admired has had post processing (even in the dark room), and if not hats off to the lucky SOB photographer. I'd love to take all my shots without bracketing or focus stacking and have the photo come out perfect every time. Just don't misrepresent yourself or your images.

Maybe I didn't make myself clear, but these points are irrelevant to the topic.

Photography is not an illusion, otherwise images wouldn't be allowed in a court of law.

I believe the very fact images are admissible in a court of law underscores my point, and negates your claim that "photography is an illusion."

A factually-altered image IS an illusion, that is part of my point, and (in a court of law) such an image can be viewed as perjury, a misrepresentation.
A factually-accurate image, however, is admissible and can be all that is needed to get a conviction.

So, in essence, this is my point:
"Art" would not be admitted in a court of law.
A factually-accurate image would be.

Minor post-processing is fine and admissable in court.
Removing FACTS from the image, through Photoshop, would render the image devoid of truth and therefore inadmissable.

Being "yourself" is not the point; that is all anyone can do.

It's what are you striving for: Truth or Art?

Or, perhaps, Art in Truth?

Art through fantasy is valid also ... but it cannot be properly called valid "nature" photography ... while finding "Art in Truth" would be the goal of nature photography.

JMO ...

Jack
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sierraman

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Re: Art vs. Authenticity?
« Reply #14 on: February 18, 2016, 06:00:47 pm »

I'm just a Layman in the photography field but do "artist" who paint with a brush have to disclose if they add clouds to a bare sky? Maybe because photography is suppose to be "reality" and painting is more of an imaginary "art". Does this sort of thing get discussed in the painting world? I don't know the answer to Art vs Authentic but I feel better when there are no rules as to what we can do with our imagination.  :)
« Last Edit: February 18, 2016, 07:04:46 pm by sierraman »
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Isaac

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Re: Art vs. Authenticity?
« Reply #15 on: February 18, 2016, 06:08:29 pm »

I refuse to believe that you are being honest here. (At the very least, you're not thinking deeply.) It defies anything genuine to suggest that getting a clear, perfect photograph of the underside of a spider while it is sitting motionless in a jar carries with it the same difficulty level as trying to obtain an in situ, unmanipulated photo of a spider's underside, in the wild, in a fleeting moment while it is crossing from one leaf to another.

Someone expresses an opinion different to yours and all you can manage is to question both their honesty and intelligence. So much for --  "it is not surprising 'others' might see things differently."


You didn't ask if there was "the same difficulty level".

You asked "Can you hold the image quality expectations to the same level?" and the answer is -- Yes, that's exactly what we do. -- no one cares how hard you worked, only that you produced the best for their purposes.
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NancyP

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Re: Art vs. Authenticity?
« Reply #16 on: February 18, 2016, 06:14:14 pm »

If my book is a morphologic identification book, I will take the ideal studio shot.
If my book is an ecology text or a naturalist's esthetic images book, I will take the natural shot that might not be ideal from the standpoint of showing every single feature of the spider, but does show the spider in action in its normal environment. Personally, I prefer the technically mildly suboptimal photo of organism in its environment and showing a characteristic / interesting behavior over the ever-popular "bird on a stick" portrait where it is just sitting there in someone's garden.
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luxborealis

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Re: Art vs. Authenticity?
« Reply #17 on: February 18, 2016, 06:54:56 pm »

Is a painter who paints nature not a nature painter?

So, why can't a photographer who photographs nature be a nature photographer if they choose to use the photographic tools at their disposal to create?

This dithering back and forth about what is "authentic" and what isn't, is just a lot of hot air.

To take this discussion to the nth degree : None of it authentic because it's ink on paper or pixels lit on a screen.

All of it is manipulated in some way. Using a filter or a Clarity adjustment or altering exposure or adding a grad mask or... is all manipulative of nature. Was the sky really that colour? Was the grass really that tactile?

What about black and white?

So, it's not a great stretch from here to remove and/or add physical objects using tools from the same toolbox.

The problem is too many people for too many years have been incorrectly sucked into the allusion that photography is somehow "real" and "authentic". While it has the potential to be more authentic than painting, it never has been. In fact, photography is a whole lot more deceptive because it looks real.

I guess it's easy to draw the line at addition and removal of things that are/aren't there, but it would be an arbitrary line as the concept of reality and authenticity is impossible to define with a creative medium.

So, I guess one must decide, as an individual, what's more important: the authenticity of nature (which can view by stepping outside) or the authenticity of the medium.

Those painters have it so easy compared to we photographers who ponder, debat and hash out these oh so significant questions!  ;)
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John Koerner

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Re: Art vs. Authenticity?
« Reply #18 on: February 18, 2016, 07:19:15 pm »

Perhaps a better way to explain my meaning would be to consider the difference between model photography and street photography.

Both have their place; both have their purpose.

Models standing under staged light, with carefully-chosen clothes, assuming carefully-choreographed stances, and feigning various facial expressions may have definite commercial application ... but can this appropriately be labeled "street photography?" :o

The entire essence of "street photography" is to capture the un-self-conscious expressions and un-self-aware body postures of the human condition, and a search for this kind of "human authenticity" has become a genre of photography unto itself.

The existence of "street photography" does not negate the value and worth of model photography, but by the same token you cannot properly call "model photography" authentic street photography either. (It's posed/staged photography, the very antithesis of street photography.)

This is the essence of what I'm saying the difference between actual nature photography and staged/posed/manipulated photography of wild subjects.

Me taking my pet parrot out, with his clipped wings, and arranging him on a perch outside, with foliage behind him, baiting him with food to stand "just so," cannot in any way be called nature photography.

It's a studio shot of the bird in my backyard and should not be held in the same regard as an authentic wild parrot photograph actually taken in the Amazon rain forest its natural environment.

To revisit the analogy: the former is a "model" shot; the latter is a "street shot" (albeit in nature).

As mentioned in the beginning, the boundaries of raw art are limitless, and don't require anyone's explanation.

But when you begin to categorize kinds of art, there have to be some definitions.
Again, in order to call something an authentic "street shot," there are certain criteria which have to apply, boundaries as to what qualifies as a street shot or not.

Me assuming my best, most fully self-satisfied smile "for the camera" is not a street shot ... but if someone in the room (unbeknownst to me) happened to capture my facial expression, in a moment of authentic happiness upon the arrival of an old friend I hadn't seen in years, that genuine expression of joy could properly be called a street shot.

It's the difference between "making up" art and finding "art" in reality.
This is the difference I'm trying to articulate; sorry if it is causing confusion.
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John Koerner

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Re: Art vs. Authenticity?
« Reply #19 on: February 18, 2016, 07:42:51 pm »

If my book is a morphologic identification book, I will take the ideal studio shot.

Agreed, as will (have) I.

Some species are simply impossible to find by the naked eye, have to be collected in a sweep net, set up, and photographed in-studio.



If my book is an ecology text or a naturalist's esthetic images book, I will take the natural shot that might not be ideal from the standpoint of showing every single feature of the spider, but does show the spider in action in its normal environment. Personally, I prefer the technically mildly suboptimal photo of organism in its environment and showing a characteristic / interesting behavior over the ever-popular "bird on a stick" portrait where it is just sitting there in someone's garden.

"Bird on a stick," lol

For taxonomy of some small critters, specimens need to be microscopically-photographed dead, because they're about the size of a hyphen.

No way is it possible to take a natural, highly-detailed ventral shot of something like that.

I agree with the consensus there is no "right" way to photograph, overall. Do what you want, at that time and at that place.

But my point is there are certain criteria that have to be met to be labeled a "kind" of photography ...

True "nature" photography of authentic wildlife versus staged images of (manipulated/tame) animals;
"Street" photography of authentic expressions of the human condition versus posed photos of people who know they're being photographed.

Etc., etc.
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