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Author Topic: Creating Meaningful Photographs  (Read 57817 times)

ednazarko

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What if we didn't call them photographs?
« Reply #120 on: June 04, 2012, 11:41:53 am »

I've always had two threads in my work with photographs, from back when I shot film, to now with digital. 

Thread one - fairly straightforward capture of a moment or a vision. Some adjustments of color balance, saturation, brightness, contrast, including brightness and contrast at a local level, all with the focus of making the photograph look like what I saw.  (And since my brain does not auto white balance like most peoples' do, I've often taken flack for saturation and color manipulation when all I did was shoot daylight film with no adjusting filters, or today, keeping my camera and raw processor set to daylight.)  I wouldn't have airbrushed out anything then, and won't clone it out now - cropping is fair game, as is diffusion filters, vignetting, and the like.

Thread two - fairly extreme manipulation of captured images to achieve a statement or vision beyond what was photographed.  Trying to elaborate on what something FELT like when I saw it. In the old days, I did Kodalith, photo silk screens, cross processing, solarization sometimes in multiple iterations, hand coloring, and sometimes many of them at once. I put things in more than removed them, but today I may well clone things out as part of the process. I've even written code to transform digital images.

When I sell the first, I call them photographs.  When I sell the second, I call them manipulated photographs, which is somewhat unsatisfactory to me still, but I think at least gives the viewer fair warning that they're going to see inside my head, not so much what my eyes saw.

I've been aware for a long time of the huge gulf between the two, but feel like if even once I cloned out a wire or a random foot that made its way into an image that I'd find myself sliding down a slippery slope.  I've done so a few times - removing the red lights of the radio tower that juts up right next to the cathedral in San Miguel de Allende - and I always find myself really uncomfortable when I do it, and feel compelled to tell people viewing the image that I did it. It's an odd quirk.

But, as a long time admirer of Jerry Uelsmann, what would you call what he does?  Yeah, it starts with photographs, but in the end it's not captured light so much as output light. John Paul Caponigro is another benchmark of mine - are they photographs?  In both cases the capture is less important than the processing and print.

I'm acutely uncomfortable with the idea of tweaking mountain height, moving trees, things like that, where the subject area is "landscape photography." It wouldn't change my appreciation of the result, I think, but I wouldn't be thinking of it as a photograph.  As a print?  Yeah, but there's a modifier needed before the word "print."  Don't know what that modifier should be.
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Isaac

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #121 on: June 04, 2012, 11:49:26 am »

... illustrates Tony’s point of view.
Now, without changing the fact that the image represents that real place at a real place in time, look at a B&W treatment and consider the charm and beauty of warm colours.
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Rob C

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #122 on: June 04, 2012, 01:12:28 pm »

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.




Hell, Les, I thought I'd stumbled onto a whole new career in natural music. Not one note was imported - they all occurred as the Sounds of Nature or, at the very least, three notes on the EADGBE of my old guitar that I never learned to play but did manage to sell at a loss.

I'm better off with Youtube.

;-(

Rob C

Colorado David

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #123 on: June 04, 2012, 01:20:08 pm »

I used to have a place in Sierra Madre, CA.  You could have shot that scene there and not had to modify it.  There were a handful of tropical birds that had escaped from a local aviary that continued to live quite well around there.  They worked well as an alarm clock too.

Isaac

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #124 on: June 04, 2012, 05:03:14 pm »

... 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.

For sake of argument, let's say "society" has whatever expectations you assume.

It does not follow that the artist's "audience" has those same expectations. We already know that the artist's audience is unusual - simply by virtue of their viewing or intending to buy art.

So, the fine art landscape photographer may simultaneously fulfil the expectations of their audience and not fulfil the expectations you assume for "society".


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.

Have you tried to elicit comments that would be evidence against that opinion?

Have you asked -- I think the way that a photograph can be composed by bringing together a river from one place and mountains from somewhere else, is the best thing that could happen in photography. Don't you?


To further emphasize my stance, I see no issue with obviously "changed" images since these stand and 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).

Even a B&W landscape photograph where a clear blue sky has been turned to evening by a dark red filter will fool "society" while still being obvious to the cognoscente.


Quote
Many consider my photographs to be in the "realistic" category. Actually, what reality they have is in their optical-image accuracy; their values are definitely "departures from reality." The viewer may accept them as realistic because the visual effect may be plausible, but if it were possible to make direct visual comparison with the subjects, the differences would be startling

Given the viewer won't notice the startling differences, would you say it's "dishonest and fraudulent" not to warn them?


Quote
I've always felt that you can do anything you want in photography if you can get away with it. ... Well, there was one group of three people that should really have been two people. I took the third person out. Retouched him out in the dark room. I had no great feeling of guilt over that.

I'm guessing that no warning accompanied Paul Strand's print.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2012, 05:48:24 pm by Isaac »
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Tony Jay

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #125 on: June 04, 2012, 07:44:53 pm »

For sake of argument, let's say "society" has whatever expectations you assume.

It does not follow that the artist's "audience" has those same expectations. We already know that the artist's audience is unusual - simply by virtue of their viewing or intending to buy art.

So, the fine art landscape photographer may simultaneously fulfil the expectations of their audience and not fulfil the expectations you assume for "society".

Come on Isaac - get real.
If you assume that the artists "audience" is entirely an homogenous one then you must believe in the tooth fairy.
One cannot make those assumptions.
I certainly don't.
It is both logical and honest to assume, rather, that one's audience is actually very heterogenous, whether this heterogeneity is exactly the breadth of society at large is entirely irrelevent.

So Isaac lets move onto more interesting aspects of the debate.

Regards

Tony Jay
« Last Edit: June 04, 2012, 08:11:10 pm by Tony Jay »
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Isaac

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #126 on: June 05, 2012, 11:17:11 am »

It is both logical and honest to assume...
You seem to be stacking assumption atop assumption.

So Isaac lets move onto more interesting aspects of the debate.
What debate? You don't seem willing to explore the reasoning put forward to support your opinion, or confirm the kind of judgements it may lead towards.

These are very straightforward questions we can use to explore the opinion you've repeatedly stated, please tell us your answers --

  • Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada from Lone Pine, California (1944)
    Do you consider display of this image (without "an honest and upfront statement of intent as to how the image may have been altered") to be unethical and fraudulent?

  • Quote
    Many consider my photographs to be in the "realistic" category. Actually, what reality they have is in their optical-image accuracy; their values are definitely "departures from reality." The viewer may accept them as realistic because the visual effect may be plausible, but if it were possible to make direct visual comparison with the subjects, the differences would be startling.
    Given the viewer won't notice the startling differences, would you say it's "dishonest and fraudulent" not to warn them?
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Tony Jay

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #127 on: June 05, 2012, 08:12:47 pm »

Isaac, I have no idea what has been done to that image first published nearly 70 years ago so I cannot comment.
However, you appear to think that I am somehow a self-appointed policeman - a position that I have never taken on.

As for the rest of your argument - much the more sweeping assumptions are yours.
I know that you will not accept this but any reasonable reader of my posts will not see extreme, unreasonable positions adopted.

Isaac, you are circling like water around a drain pipe on only one issue.

If you recall my original response was to Alain's article that highlighted certain editorial options available in the digital era.
If you further recall that post covered several issues apart from any ethical ones.

In subsequent posts - because of the direction of the debate I have further clarified my position.
I cannot force you to adopt my point of view (actually that was never my intention), but I certainly believe that any reasonable person can see my point, irrespective of their own point of view.

As for the ethics that have been debated, these can never be legislated. Ethics can only really come from the inside.

Regards

Tony Jay
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jeremyrh

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #128 on: June 06, 2012, 03:25:06 am »

And therein lies the crux of the matter, the world of landscape photography is splitting into two directions - precise documentation and pleasing art
 
Does art have to please?
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LesPalenik

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #129 on: June 06, 2012, 04:32:50 am »

Good point. But I'm the type of guy who doesn't like heavy drama or tragedy, I prefer a light comedy.
Admittedly, it wasn't the best choice of words, but at least in some way the product should please the author (or the receiver/buyer).

For example, today I set to photograph the Venus Eclipse. But you know what, it was quite a bland picture. Small black dot moving across a larger white disc. I'm sure, some of the posters in this thread would applaud me for such a realistic capture, but I don't think, I could place it in any art gallery.

Keen on producing something meaningful, I thought I'd take a lesson from this discusson and instead create some expressive art.
No big changes, just substituted and re-arranged two objects. I didn't use any warping, stretching, or HDR. Actually, in absolute terms, quite realistic depiction. OK, maybe one of the elements was not proportionally scaled, but the artistic license allows some freedom.  

So, as a result of today's experience in the field, and combined input from this thread, instead of just recording some inconsequential centennial event, I managed to create something what really pleased me. You can view the result here:
 
http://www.longprints.com/ImgGroup2/Group2/A0-Moon1526WP.jpg


To see the actual Venus Eclipse report (which could be also pleasing to some), click here http://advantica.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/venus-eclipse/
« Last Edit: June 06, 2012, 04:42:31 am by LesPalenik »
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Tony Jay

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #130 on: June 06, 2012, 04:37:15 am »

Wonderful quirky result Les.

BTW do you happen to own the parrot?

Regards

Tony Jay
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LesPalenik

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #131 on: June 06, 2012, 04:40:09 am »

Nah, I don't think the parrot would put up with me.
But I'm getting good mileage out of him.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2012, 04:44:55 am by LesPalenik »
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Rob C

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #132 on: June 06, 2012, 04:41:16 am »

Wow, Les, that bird sure gets around! Surprised at how much Venus looks like the Moon though, as they say, see one heavenly body and you've seen 'em all.

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Tony Jay

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #133 on: June 06, 2012, 04:46:36 am »

Nah, I don't think the parrot would put up with me.
But I'm getting good mileage out of him.

So, in a manner of speaking it could be said that the parrot is a retread?

Regards

Tony Jay
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LesPalenik

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #134 on: June 06, 2012, 04:47:02 am »

Quote
Surprised at how much Venus looks like the Moon though, as they say, see one heavenly body and you've seen 'em all.
Yeah, the moon has way more character, and Alain says you can combine elements from multiple images.
After all, I changed only two elements, and instead of a black dot on white disc, I managed to get some color and nice texture.

From a larger distance, I agree, most heavenly bodies look the same. However, the same can't be said, when it comes to Mars and Venus.

Quote
So, in a manner of speaking it could be said that the parrot is a retread?
1. In my previous life, I used to be software designer and once I created and tested a good subroutine, I tried to reuse it as much as I could.

2. When you are a parrot, you get retreaded every year - whether you need it or not.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2012, 05:40:34 am by LesPalenik »
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Tony Jay

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #135 on: June 06, 2012, 05:02:40 am »

Well there you go Les: Waste not, want not!

Regards

Tony Jay
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Jim Pascoe

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #136 on: June 06, 2012, 05:48:49 am »

This is a discussion that could go around and around simply because photographers all have their own view on what a photograph can be.  Photography is a means of communication - like drawing, painting or writing.  It has one unique feature in that it can be used literally to represent what is in front of the camera - assuming the photographer has the technical knowledge to set the camera controls optimally.  Of course the photographer chooses their own viewpoint and moment in time to make the image and this alone surely is the greatest control that can be exerted over the resulting image and therefore, the meaning they want to convey.

That for me is photography.

I do routinely 'tidy up' some minor distractions in landscapes, but major alterations such as those mentioned in the article change the nature of the photograph as far as I am concerned, and I find the resulting pictures less satisfying as photographs.
Even the current trend of over saturating and over-use of the Clarity tool I find unreal in most landscape photographs.  We were recently in Tuscany photographing the early morning mist.  The colours were soft and muted and the distant trees and buildings were indistinct.  It would be so easy to 'enhance' the scene and 'bring out' the buildings in software.  But that is not how it was.

My point is that the question of how much manipulation is acceptable is entirely down to the photographer - it is their idea that they are trying to communicate.  If they want to produce a work of fiction because that is how they would like to see the world that's their choice.  Personally I want to know that what I end up with is a good representation to me of what I witnessed at the time.  If other enjoy my pictures that is a bonus.

Viewers of pictures will bring their own feelings to the image put in front of them - as they do any other art form, and this whole question is one for the individual photographer concerned and what THEY want to convey.  It is nobody else's business.

I found Alan's article very interesting and though provoking.  He is a good photographer - but if I now believe that he moves trees and warps mountains in his pictures then for me the enjoyment of them is severely reduced.  They may be great works of art and I may love the image, but as photographs they have lost their message to me.

I'm not trying to say that my type of photography is better than Alan's, or anyone else's who uses a lot of manipulation.  Just that for me it's not what photography is about.  For me and my photography that is.

Jim

PS - I just realised what a hypocrite I am!  I had a woodland scene last year and I inserted a nude girl leaning against a tree in the distance.  The girl was photographed ten years earlier and has a few more wrinkles now.  It was only a bit of fun though and not meant to be taken seriously.  Not sure what message I wanted to convey either - perhaps just a bit of wishful thinking. Am I forgiven?
« Last Edit: June 06, 2012, 05:55:44 am by Jim Pascoe »
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Rob C

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #137 on: June 06, 2012, 09:25:15 am »

PS - I just realised what a hypocrite I am!  I had a woodland scene last year and I inserted a nude girl leaning against a tree in the distance.  The girl was photographed ten years earlier and has a few more wrinkles now.  It was only a bit of fun though and not meant to be taken seriously.  Not sure what message I wanted to convey either - perhaps just a bit of wishful thinking. Am I forgiven?



Well Jim, you'll have to ask the girl. Some like to be reminded of days that used to be - I, for one, listen to those sorts of songs most of the day - but others see only the passage of time and that's not always a comfortable or rewarding sight at all. As I say, better ask the girl.

On the other hand, if everything is cool between you both, why not take another such piccy and post it here under Without Prejudice and not a soul will pass comment, thus saving face all round or, perversely, hiding acclaim and assorted congratulations. As has been observed before, you can't win both ways. Or, if you can, you're better off working the stock exchange instead of a camera. Anyway, to save time and effort, you could always forget the tree and just remain closer to the subject.

I look forward to the update.

;-)

Rob C

Isaac

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #138 on: June 06, 2012, 10:55:58 am »

He is a good photographer - but if I now believe that he moves trees and warps mountains in his pictures then for me the enjoyment of them is severely reduced.  They may be great works of art and I may love the image, but as photographs they have lost their message to me.

Would it be okay if he moves the trees with a telephoto and warps mountains with a super-wide? ;-)
« Last Edit: June 06, 2012, 12:22:38 pm by Isaac »
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Isaac

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Re: Creating Meaningful Photographs
« Reply #139 on: June 06, 2012, 12:28:24 pm »

Isaac, I have no idea what has been done to that image first published nearly 70 years ago so I cannot comment.
I accept your wish not to comment in that case.
You also made no answer when asked about the photographer's explicit statement of "departures from reality" in their work - in that case, you do have the information you need to formulate an answer.

However, you appear to think that I am somehow a self-appointed policeman - a position that I have never taken on.
That isn't something I've stated, suggested or intimated.

As for the rest of your argument - much the more sweeping assumptions are yours.
The point is that all you seem to have is assumption. When you write "It is both logical and honest to assume..." you're building a house of cards. The truth seems to be that you don't know, in which case it's both logical and honest to accept that you don't know - nothing forces you to stack up assumptions but the need to support your opinion.


I know that you will not accept this but any reasonable reader of my posts will not see extreme, unreasonable positions adopted.
Please don't presume to tell me what I will or will not accept.
As long as, by any reasonable reader, you just mean someone who agrees with your opinions about what is unreasonable, there's no reason not to accept the statement.

Isaac, you are circling like water around a drain pipe on only one issue.
When having you answer to that issue is like drawing blood from a stone, why would I take on more than one issue :-)
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