Purists vs. Processors

Let's just dive right into the week, shall we. I just came across an excellent article this morning about the great debate that has been floating around the Internet a lot this year. And, no it isn't the great Canon vs. Nikon debate.

I have read a lot of articles this year on the topic of weather using photoshop on photography is detrimental to the purity or reality of the image. Darwin Wiggett and Samantha Chrysanthou have an excellent article on the subject over at Nature Photographers Online Magazine, called

Photostop and Nature Photography: How Far is Too Far?

"All graphic art should be judged on how well it expresses its subject matter, and nothing else. If the idea or story the artist meant to convey is successfully told, then the image succeeds. If not, well…time to practice some more." - Darwin Wiggett & Samantha Chrysanthou.

I agree with their concept that photography is a graphic art and should be judged as such and not judged on how "real" it portrays a scene, and for me that includes Nature Photography because in my opinion the use of filters is already manipulation as the point of capture, so editing in photoshop to me, isn't that much different. I want to create art, not just capture a scene anyway.

There is, however, a flip side to the argument that affect some forms of photography, like photojournalism. With journalism, there is a sense from the reader of a magazine or newspaper that the images they are seeing are an accurate portrayal of an event or person. We expect those images not to be manipulated and become distrusting of photos when we find they are not "real" in those contexts.

"Photos that are faked are intrinsically tied to photos that are real. They draw much of their power from the public’s belief that photos never lie. Of course all of us know “the camera always lies” and the second you pick a lens or a place to stand you’re influencing the reality of the picture in some way. But, we can’t escape that the public still wants to believe in a photograph’s ability to tell the truth. So, people who take images that appear to be truthful but are really altered beyond reality are at some level destroying this bond." - Rob Haggart

I will direct you now to Rob Haggart's article published in Outside Magazine "This Photo is Lying to You" He talks about the harm that can come from digital manipulation in the magazine world, but also fairly states that even the purists have been known to stage scene prior to clicking the shutter to get a good shot.

In closing, with all things, there is of course a balance. We need to clearly define what kind of photographer we are, making it clear to the public that we are either a journalist or an artist and be careful not to just slap the "fine art" tag onto our work to dance around the concept of photo manipulation. We either use it with intent or not at all, but we should never use it to deceive. I think Ed Freeman, who is a the principal example in Rob's article, says it best,

"What there DOES need to be, however, is a clear distinction between what we photo manipulators do – work that is increasingly an art of the imagination – and the work of documentarians and photo journalists, who record life with a straight, sober and hopefully, not too creative an eye. I'm sure they don't want to be confused with me, and frankly, I don't want to be confused with them, either." - Ed Freeman

For more reading on Rob Haggart's point of view, check out his blog, A Photo Editor, and his breakdown about his article in Outside Magazine here.

For more on Darwinn Wigget, visit his blog here.

For more on Ed Freeman, check out his blog here.