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Author Topic: Creating Meaningful Photographs  (Read 56487 times)

Peter McLennan

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #100 on: June 03, 2012, 03:47:08 pm »


We need to distinguish between normal adjustments of images ... and major alterations...

Why? And who decides what constitutes "major" alterations? Who will set the rules? A Bureau of Image Police? I see no need to either conceal or limit the extent of manipulation.   If you're selling your images in a gallery and pretending that heavily-manipulated images represent veracity, that's obviously deceitful and possibly illegal.  Any knowledgeable photographic "investor" will know that ALL images are manipulated, and saying that we have to avoid all "major" alterations is not reasonable.  Or enforceable.

When people ask me "Are your images digitally manipulated?", I reply "Absolutely.  I use every trick in the book. Why would I want to artificially limit the tools I use to produce my images?"

Saying that people should have a right, if they visit the location, to see or even photograph what the photographer saw is also unreasonable. I once visited Hernandez, New Mexico and photographed that famous landscape.  Needless to say, my image wasn't quite as lovely as Ansel Adams'.

*Disclaimer* (and this will obviously bias my viewpoint)
I don't sell my images - in galleries or elsewhere.  Mostly, I give them away.  I spent a career shooting images for others and now, it's far more fun to shoot for myself.

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Ben Rubinstein

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #101 on: June 03, 2012, 04:26:24 pm »

Wouldn't it be so much easier just to drop the word 'photography' and just call it art? At that point we no longer have to deal with the semantics and realism police and can just to what all other artists are able to do, transfer the image or concept in our brain onto a medium where others can share it. Why on earth are we limiting ourselves by letting a genre (try to) define our artistic expression?

dreed

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #102 on: June 03, 2012, 04:38:28 pm »

All that, and more, are OK if your goal is to create art.  Expecting art to faithfully duplicate reality is a misconception, a misunderstanding of the very purpose of art.

Sure, but art needs to be clearly labeled as art so as to not be confused with that which is faithful to reality. Similarly, art that has been created thus should not be described as a photograph. beautiful-landscape seems to mostly get this right.
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LesPalenik

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #103 on: June 03, 2012, 04:45:47 pm »

Quote
If it's okay to stretch mountains, remove rivers and reposition plants in a landscape, why isn't is okay to do the same with buildings, streets and signs in a cityscape? (Or is it?)  

The whole discusssion was triggered by Alain's article and two of his very artful pictures. The first shows a macro landscape with a pile of sand and a lone plant in front of it. The second one shows a narrow puddle of water in the desert that happens maybe once a year. Or once in twenty years.
Not to diminish the beautifully envisioned and recreated scenes, nobody would argue that these are permanent sights. Unfortunately,  main elements in his images are very transient, and they won't stay in the same place for very long.

Now, one of the forum readers expressed a concern that his primary reason in looking at fine art is to glean enough factual information from it so that he can travel there and experience it with his own eyes. Fair enough.

To fullfil his wish, I moved a motion not to displace any hard objects such as mountains, grand canyons and some buildings, and stick only to manipulation of fleeting objects. I hasten to add that this should not be confused with depictions of annual migrations of caribou or wilder beasts.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2012, 08:17:18 pm by LesPalenik »
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Isaac

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #104 on: June 03, 2012, 05:25:00 pm »

We need to distinguish between normal adjustments of images... and major alterations...

Why?

Lest we forget --

"The term straight photography probably originated in a 1904 exhibition review... Straight photography is so familiar that it is easy to forget that it is an aesthetic, no less artificial than any other. ... Straight photography has lost much of its prestige as postmodern photographers have rejected its once-dominant tenets. They now produce works that counter the purist emphasis on straight photographic process (manipulated photography), on documentary veracity (fabricated and manipulated photography), and on maintaining the distinction between art and popular culture (fashion aesthetic)."

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Ray

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #105 on: June 03, 2012, 08:59:27 pm »

Why? And who decides what constitutes "major" alterations? Who will set the rules? A Bureau of Image Police? I see no need to either conceal or limit the extent of manipulation.   If you're selling your images in a gallery and pretending that heavily-manipulated images represent veracity, that's obviously deceitful and possibly illegal.  Any knowledgeable photographic "investor" will know that ALL images are manipulated, and saying that we have to avoid all "major" alterations is not reasonable.  Or enforceable.

Don't be silly, Peter. ;D We don't need new rules, just new terminology. As to who decides what constitutes major alterations, of course you do. The buyer does, if he's informed, the reviewers of the photographs do and anyone who may have an interest in the history and culture of a particular location, whether for personal reasons or historical reasons.

The vast majority of all the photographs ever taken are essentially accurate historical records of a precise moment of time and space. That's the norm. If 0.0001% of the people who take photos, whether they use a P&S, an iPhone, a DSLR or an MFDB, decide that 'anything goes' and that they can treat the image out of the camera as though it were a blank canvas, then the onus is on those few to make it clear they have produced a work of photographic fiction that may be only loosely based upon a real event or person, just as the average novel may be only very loosely based upon certain characters in real life that the author may have met or read about.

Imagine the confusion that would reign if works of literature were not categorised into fiction and nonfiction.

Novels usually have a disclaimer in the foreword along the lines of "All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental."

Now I know that such a statement is made to protect the author from possible legal action, and that trees and mountains cannot initiate lawsuits. However, for the sake of clarification and the avoidance of confusion, if a photograph of a specific location only loosely resembles that location because large semi-permanent trees or buildings have been cloned out, and/or mountains added etc, then some generic statement on the back of the photograph, along the lines of the 'All persons fictitious disclaimer' should perhaps be required.

At least such statements might help researchers from future generations to decide whether or not a particular photograph has any historical significance.
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David Sutton

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #106 on: June 03, 2012, 10:34:32 pm »


Now I know that such a statement is made to protect the author from possible legal action, and that trees and mountains cannot initiate lawsuits. However, for the sake of clarification and the avoidance of confusion, if a photograph of a specific location only loosely resembles that location because large semi-permanent trees or buildings have been cloned out, and/or mountains added etc, then some generic statement on the back of the photograph, along the lines of the 'All persons fictitious disclaimer' should perhaps be required.

At least such statements might help researchers from future generations to decide whether or not a particular photograph has any historical significance.


You are 160 years too late. The horse has bolted and went to the knackers. The stable fell down in 1906 and the door used for firewood. Give up and let it go. Learn to live with it and go out and have fun with a camera.
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Peter McLennan

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #107 on: June 03, 2012, 10:42:49 pm »

... then some generic statement on the back of the photograph, along the lines of the 'All persons fictitious disclaimer' should perhaps be required.

At least such statements might help researchers from future generations to decide whether or not a particular photograph has any historical significance.


Very true.  I'd not considered the history/archives perspective.  But then nothing I've shot would be of benefit to historians.  If an image is offered for sale, say in a gallery, then such a statement on the back would be an excellent idea.

"Like most photographs, this image has been altered from the camera original for tone, colour and content"

How's that?  Covers our backsides nicely.  Keeps the Photo Police off our backs.  Keeps the lawyers happy.

However to be fair, all photographic images sold in galleries would have to bear this message.
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Ray

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #108 on: June 04, 2012, 12:35:29 am »

You are 160 years too late. The horse has bolted and went to the knackers. The stable fell down in 1906 and the door used for firewood. Give up and let it go. Learn to live with it and go out and have fun with a camera.

I do have fun with the camera. That's not the issue. The issue is having fun manipulating and distorting the results so that they are unrecognisable from the oiriginal scene, then not mentioning that fact. Did you miss that point?
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Ray

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #109 on: June 04, 2012, 12:44:08 am »

Very true.  I'd not considered the history/archives perspective.  But then nothing I've shot would be of benefit to historians.  If an image is offered for sale, say in a gallery, then such a statement on the back would be an excellent idea.

"Like most photographs, this image has been altered from the camera original for tone, colour and content"

How's that?  Covers our backsides nicely.  Keeps the Photo Police off our backs.  Keeps the lawyers happy.

However to be fair, all photographic images sold in galleries would have to bear this message.


No. You've failed to distinguish between tone and content. Photography means 'painting in light' or 'drawing in light'. It doesn't mean changing the content of the scene. The content is the subject which reflects the light. Adjusting the image in Photoshop to simulate that initial impression of reflected light that inspired one to take the photo is one thing, which is completely acceptable. To change the actual content which reflects the light is a distortion of reality.
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daws

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #110 on: June 04, 2012, 01:46:47 am »


No. You've failed to distinguish between tone and content. Photography means 'painting in light' or 'drawing in light'. It doesn't mean changing the content of the scene. The content is the subject which reflects the light. Adjusting the image in Photoshop to simulate that initial impression of reflected light that inspired one to take the photo is one thing, which is completely acceptable. To change the actual content which reflects the light is a distortion of reality.

But distortions of reality, including changing the "actual content" of reality, are an essential part of creating art. If they are not allowed in photography, then how can photography be art?


All that, and more, are OK if your goal is to create art.  Expecting art to faithfully duplicate reality is a misconception, a misunderstanding of the very purpose of art.

Precisely.
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Fine_Art

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #111 on: June 04, 2012, 02:33:30 am »

Don't be silly, Peter. ;D We don't need new rules, just new terminology. As to who decides what constitutes major alterations, of course you do. The buyer does, if he's informed, the reviewers of the photographs do and anyone who may have an interest in the history and culture of a particular location, whether for personal reasons or historical reasons.

The vast majority of all the photographs ever taken are essentially accurate historical records of a precise moment of time and space. That's the norm. If 0.0001% of the people who take photos, whether they use a P&S, an iPhone, a DSLR or an MFDB, decide that 'anything goes' and that they can treat the image out of the camera as though it were a blank canvas, then the onus is on those few to make it clear they have produced a work of photographic fiction that may be only loosely based upon a real event or person, just as the average novel may be only very loosely based upon certain characters in real life that the author may have met or read about.

Imagine the confusion that would reign if works of literature were not categorised into fiction and nonfiction.

Novels usually have a disclaimer in the foreword along the lines of "All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental."

Now I know that such a statement is made to protect the author from possible legal action, and that trees and mountains cannot initiate lawsuits. However, for the sake of clarification and the avoidance of confusion, if a photograph of a specific location only loosely resembles that location because large semi-permanent trees or buildings have been cloned out, and/or mountains added etc, then some generic statement on the back of the photograph, along the lines of the 'All persons fictitious disclaimer' should perhaps be required.

At least such statements might help researchers from future generations to decide whether or not a particular photograph has any historical significance.


This line of reasoning appeals to me. So maybe "image" can be interpreted as fiction vs "photograph" as non-fiction.
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Ray

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #112 on: June 04, 2012, 02:59:45 am »

But distortions of reality, including changing the "actual content" of reality, are an essential part of creating art. If they are not allowed in photography, then how can photography be art?


Good question, which we should all deliberate upon. Some other related questions are; Why do we take a photo in the first instance? Are we inspired by the scene in front of us, or do we think it is just a semi-blank canvas which, with the help of Photoshop, we can turn into anything we want?

There is nothing not allowed in Photography, outside of legal considerations. The issue is all to do with the discalimer. Is it fiction or nonfiction. We now accept that paintings are largely fiction. I'm fairly certain that was not always the case. The notion that the 'camera never lies' is still around. It's not quite true. We have the ultra-wide angle effect, the out-of-focus effect, and all the technical deficiences which are not the experience of the eye when viewing the scene in reality, such as dynamic range limitations and obvious noise in photos of dimly lit scenes taken at high ISO.

One could say that the art of photography is in reproducing on print (or monitor) the emotional experience one felt when viewing the scene which inspired one to take the shot in the first instance.
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Tony Jay

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #113 on: June 04, 2012, 03:53:56 am »

I am sure that we are all intelligent enough to understand that the debate is not really about what is allowed and not allowed, or for that matter, what does or does not constitute art.

However, with landscape photography, as well as bird and wildlife photography in my opinion, there is an expectation in society that a photographic image of a landscape represent a recognizable reality.
So, if one alters a landscape photograph such that it becomes a fictional image, in the manner proposed by Alain with wholesale addition and removal of landscape elements then the creator of that image, in my opinion anyway, is obliged to inform viewers and buyers of that fact.

This is an issue of honesty and ethics, not, what is allowed or not allowed, and not, what is art or not art.
While some in society may believe and accept that landscape photographs are complete fabrications and should not be expected to represent a real place at a real point in time, I believe that significant parts of society, possibly even the vast majority, really do expect a landscape image to represent a real place at a real time.
So, logic dictates that is both honest and ethical to inform one's audience about what they can expect. Some will happily accept that a landscape image is complete fabrication and some will not.
Not informing one's audience about the extent of one's artistic licence, in the context of landscape photography with the range of expectation already denoted, is, in my opinion, both dishonest and unethical.

With other genre's of photography the expectations of society are completely different so the same issues are not necessarily in play.

Interestingly, in my original post the emphasis there was not whether the "Alain moves" were right or wrong but whether they were really necessary given that digital photography has opened up lots of possibilities to improve the tonal range, colour, and detail of landscape images.
I openly admit to my discomfort with some of the "Alain moves" but no-one should interpret that as a dictatorial obligation for themselves.

Regards

Tony Jay
« Last Edit: June 04, 2012, 07:26:16 am by Tony Jay »
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LesPalenik

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #114 on: June 04, 2012, 04:28:02 am »

Tony,

The problem as I see it, there are two different views discussed here.

You belong into a camp in which the most realistic pictorial interpretation is paramount, and nothing else matters,
whereas for Alain photography is a powerful paint brush to implement his artistic vision. 

Two very different philosophies and the twain shall never meet.
 

Rob C

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #115 on: June 04, 2012, 06:29:44 am »

So how do you explain colour blindness?


If it's in a boy, you blame the mother. She, in her turn, might have a partially colour blind father but she won't be affected by his failing.

It's all in the genes, as is artistic ability or the lack of same. Despair now.

Rob C

Tony Jay

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #116 on: June 04, 2012, 07:15:00 am »

Actually, I don't see myself directly at odds with Alain - principally because he is honest with his audience.

Several others, if I have correctly interpreted their posts, have either intimated or expressly stated that because what they do is "art", howeverso defined, that they have no obligation to their audience to inform them that the landscape they are viewing or buying exists nowhere except in the imagination of the "artist", howeverso defined.
I feel that this is dishonest and fraudulent given there is a very natural tendency in society to view a photographic landscape as representing a real place at a real point in time. I very much accept that this tendency may not be universal and that there must be a range of views in society with regards to whether photographic landscapes should represent a real place at a real point in time.
Nonetheless, as long as people are open and honest about what they are doing, as with Alain I don't object even if I would not do the same myself.

However, with regard to what makes a landscape photograph meaningful I can only say this: The charm and allure, beauty and power of a landscape image, in my opinion, rests solely on the fact that the image does, in fact, represent that real place at a real place in time.

I cannot claim that every individual in the universe agrees with me (clearly silly to assume this), but merely that, face to face anyway, I have never met anyone who put any value on a fabricated photographic landscape.

To further emphasize my stance, I see no issue with obviously "changed" images since these stand and speak for themselves. Michael Reichman enjoys using selective desaturation as a tool. Does he need to explain himself? No, the image speaks for itself.

These different genres and approaches generally speak for themselves.  Even a landscape image where a clear blue sky has been changed to purple and the green trees changes to red will fool no-one as to its imaginary nature (colour-blindness notwithstanding).

So, I am not a literalist, an artistic Philistine, by any stretch of the imagination.

Regards

Tony Jay
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HSway

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #117 on: June 04, 2012, 09:59:29 am »

My fundamental definition of Photography by Intent and Approach


Realistic Photography (film or digital)
puts strong emphasis on presenting photographed subject as seen and visually perceived and experienced. Camera, software and media equipment is used in all their spectrum and capabilities.
Processing files regularly involves manipulations aimed at best or optimum results. That involves mild content adjustments strictly in line with this approach (of realistic photograph). For example a cloning tool can be used for minor adjustments. Natural scene is often subject to a small variability occurring continuously (especially in nature scenes by factors such as wind etc.). Such periodic changes not essential for given image realistic form can be adjusted by the choice of photographer.

There are not precise rules. This type of approach is ultimately based on vision and concept the photographer adopted and on what photographer considers characteristic and representative of his/her work to realize fully his/her motivation.


Special purpose Photography (involved in many professions) as a means for recording/copy purposes will limit content adjustments to minimum or exclude them or adjust the overall output again in line with the purpose of such a photographic record.


Artistic or Creative Photography (film or digital)
The execution of a photograph is governed mainly by artistic abstraction of the photographer that leads typically to a wide range of expressions. Processing tools are used from moderate to high creative grade to interpret a specific intention inspired both by the photographed scene or the object and a dynamic nature of vision of a particular photographer or artist. The photograph bears signs of personal interpretation or creative intent and can vary moderately or in high degree relative to photographed scene average perception.


The lines and transitions between ways in approaching photography are never an exact dogma and will always rely on a critical judgment of the photography community.
As the essence of the photography is and always was more than a science or just a set of technical operations, itís us who will ultimately shape its character and presentation.


Hynek
« Last Edit: June 04, 2012, 10:34:27 am by HSway »
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dmerger

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #118 on: June 04, 2012, 10:35:15 am »

Perhaps it would be interesting to consider some photographic examples that illustrate the different points of view expressed in this thread.

The charm and allure, beauty and power of a landscape image, in my opinion, rests solely on the fact that the image does, in fact, represent that real place at a real place in time.

The well known photo of Horsetail Falls by Galen Rowell illustrates Tonyís point of view.   Here are links that explain the photo:
http://dsc.discovery.com/adventure/ever-see-a-waterfall-on-fire.html
http://www.snopes.com/photos/natural/firewaterfall.asp

Here is a link to a composite photo of the man made fire falls that took place in Yosemite regularly: http://firefall.info/ 
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Dean Erger

LesPalenik

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #119 on: June 04, 2012, 10:44:39 am »

Quote
However, with regard to what makes a landscape photograph meaningful I can only say this: The charm and allure, beauty and power of a landscape image, in my opinion, rests solely on the fact that the image does, in fact, represent that real place at a real place in time.

I can't argue with that statement.
Actually, I happen to have created an image that would fully satisfy the above criteria. A fairly minimalistic scene, consisting of a few slim horizontal elements and populated by some feathered creatures, about the size of a blackbird. I would say about 7 inches in size. The birds.
Just a quick snapshot, but totally real place at real place in time, with real inhabitants. Everything was there - the charm and allure, beauty and power (even electric power).

However, I felt an urge to add some artistic dimension to the scene, and carefully placed another bird to the flock. The new arrival happened to be a macaw parrot about 2 1/2 ft in size. In order to maintain the realism in the scene, I scaled him to about 3 times the size of the surrounding models.
Just this one small addition. Not like cloning a whole group of elephants or other beasts you would find in some expensive wildlife books.

You may ask, how was the masterpiece received by the public? Almost uniformly, they said, the macaw seems out of proportion. Nobody said anything about colour clash, macaws not perching on high wires, or that he might scare the other birds. No, they just bitched about the apparent disproportion. You try your hardest, but you just can't please everybody.
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