Image Manipulation: Is It Worthy of Being “Photography”?
|There is no such thing as a photograph that isn’t postprocessed.
–Miserere’s 9th Truth about Photography
A picture over at Photo.net recently sparked a heated debate when is was named Picture of the Week. Take a look and judge for yourself:
The big issue amongst the detractors of this choice was that, in their view, this was not a photograph, but an image. It seems a committee decided on a hierarchy of artistic worthiness and decreed that photographs were better than images. What’s worse, they forgot to send me the memo. Now I’ll have to guess that paintings are somewhere between photographs and images, and comics are below all of these. Or maybe paintings are way above anything else. I wouldn’t know—I didn’t receive that memo either. I suppose children’s drawings are all the way at the bottom of the scale, unless they’re your kids, in which case they may be at the very top.
“Art is Art, and I don’t give a damn how it’s produced. The only question is: Does it move me?”
Bearing in mind that many people don’t even consider Photography to be an Art, I find the discussion of manipulated images amongst photographers to be ironic at the very least. As you may have guessed from my tone, I am not of the opinion that there is such a hierarchy. Art is Art, and I don’t give a damn how it’s produced. The only question I think is important is: Does it move me?
The answer to this question when it comes to Ceslovas’s photograph is a resounding yes. I’m sorry, did I offend you? I meant to say Ceslovas’s image. One of the comments that popped up a few times and which had me scratching my head went something like this: I really liked this photograph, until I found out it was a manipulation and entirely made up. Now I don’t like it that much. This tells me something about many fellow photographers that had so far escaped me: they see photography as a way of recreating reality, and the quality of a photo is directly proportional to how well it accomplishes this goal.
It makes complete sense to me now (thanks to my acute 20/20 hindsight) and explains why so many photographers are vehemently against image manipulation. My personal view was always that Photography is Art, and as such, is charged with interpreting reality, not reproducing it. It’s no different to painting, only the medium changes. Can you imagine going over to van Gogh and telling him that his stars were out of proportion to the Moon and that the sky wasn’t swirly in real life?
I doubt Ceslovas is too concerned with how things look like in real life; he’s probably too busy letting his imagination fly and his cyber-brush flow. The image that sparked the debate on Photo.net is a composite of 4 photographs with the addition of a walking figure through software. Is it not a photograph because it is composed of 4 different images? In that case, this following image would not be photograph either as it’s composed of two separate exposures (or maybe the cut-off is three?):
Maybe a photograph becomes an image when you add an element external to the original scene through software or other means. Or maybe the real question is this: Does it really matter what we call it? If you’ve read other posts of mine you might have noticed that I use the terms photograph, image and picture interchangeably. Photography is simply “writing with light”, so in theory, the moment you treat or alter a photograph with a computer you have stopped writing with light and thus transformed it into an image. This means that any photograph produced with a digital camera is no longer a photograph as the photons of light have been converted to electrical signals, which are then manipulated by the CPU (computer) inside the camera. I’ll have to send that memo out as soon as possible: News flash! Unless you’re shooting film you’re not really taking photographs, you’re actually just making images! Can’t wait to send this out to my mailing list.
“What do you plan to do as a photographer? Reproduce reality, or produce Art?”
So again I ask: Does it really matter what we call it? If “it” (the image, photograph, whatever) moved you, however little, then it’s Art. If it’s left you indifferent, then who cares what it’s called! Check out Ceslovas’s portfolio and examine his wit, humour and mastery of digital techniques; let yourself be blown away by his imagination and simply enjoy the ride. He has a camera, a computer, and a vision. He is an artist, and Art is what he does.
What do you plan to do as a photographer? Will you reproduce reality, or produce Art?
Ask yourself that question next time you look through your viewfinder.