is photography supposed to be reality ?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by jnantz, Sep 30, 2018.

is a photograph supposed to be reality ?

This poll will close on Feb 15, 2046 at 7:14 PM.
  1. yes

    14 vote(s)
    19.4%
  2. no

    58 vote(s)
    80.6%
  1. Alan Edward Klein

    Alan Edward Klein Member

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    If a person viewing your photograph asks you with a doubtful look whether you photoshopped it, and you get a twinge in your stomach, then you're not doing something right.
     
  2. faberryman

    faberryman Subscriber

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    Why should you get a twinge in your stomach?
     
  3. markjwyatt

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    I think the ease of changing the sky (especially in digital workflows) is a good example. I was looking at a photograph on a forum recently , and noticed the sky was very dramatic. I wanted to ask the OP if he added the clouds, but felt that maybe I should not (I felt the twinge for him). In the end I did. He took a couple days to answer and answered in a private message with a one liner stating that he did add the clouds. I also note that I am using ON1 for digital processing. They are moving to the next version, and in marketing it they are highlighting new features, one of which is making it easier to change the sky. Again, this can be done in analog photography also, either through a hybrid process (scan and digitally add clouds) or by sandwiching negatives. Today the technology makes it a snap, and it leads to some really beautiful and dramatic images.

    Is adding clouds bad? I do not think it is clear. Personally I twinge at considering it (and have not been doing it). But sometimes a blank sky can be quite boring, and we cannot control the weather, nor always wait for every shot for conditions to change (in Texas they say it would be less than hour, but elsewhere it could be much longer). Maybe the fact we feel a twinge just comes from our experience in the film world where doing this was quite an effort. Maybe it is just a general moral sense of honesty.

    If you change the sky you could create a subconscious effect in the viewers mind. If the sky was actually blank, and you add gathering storm clouds, subconsciously it may not look correct (patterns of light and shadow, etc.), and the viewer may feel disturbed even if they do not analyze the patterns conciously. Then again, as an artist maybe that is exactly what you might want to do- create some conflict in subtle but noticeable ways.

    I think it comes down to how you present the work. If it is presented as art, then maybe there is no issue. If you hand someone a picture and say "I snapped this in Bonn last year", it may be a bit dishonest, as you actually snapped it in Bonn, but then added clouds from Buenos Aires shot three years ago.

    I think we need an expression such as "viewer beware" when viewing images, and that is the norm today (and in fact always has been, but statistically it is much more frequent today).
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2018
  4. Vaughn

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    "is photography supposed to be reality ?"

    My new answer: Yes -- the photographer's reality.
     
  5. Sirius Glass

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    Until they add clouds or other objects, move rocks and trees or remove dogs tails.
     
  6. blockend

    blockend Member
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    A good photograph has a visceral effect on the viewer, a response from the gut. So many photographs appeal to exclusively photographic instincts, a nice portrait, a colourful flower, a moody sky, a bird caught in mid flight. While those things can be part of the emotion of a photo, they are rarely satisfactory as the whole story. I looked through a wildlife magazine in a waiting room yesterday, full of "stunning" photographs. What I actually felt was entirely aesthetic, how pink the flamingos wear, how the photographer had captured the tiger's leap onto its victim. Well done, a triumph of expensive gear and exotic locale, but emotionally very little, at least for me (and I like animals and the outdoors). A great photograph has the capacity to transcend the photographic language we're all familiar with, and make it's own small permanent truth. The truth may be a lie in the bigger story - especially true of journalism - but it becomes iconic in its own right.
     
  7. blockend

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    I think it adds to the general feeling of photography as junk currency. The trust in some genres of photography as being anything more than a type of graphic design has never been lower. If I see a landscape at an exhibition I assume it has been at least filtered to emphasise unrealistic visual relationships, and probably chopped up wholesale by digital processing. My own response is a new found respect for landscape photos most judges would find boring, because they resound with the emotion of what it must have been like at the time. There's also a certain laziness about a lot of photography. I remember driving through the hills on a miserable wet day. For one moment the clouds parted, just long enough to allow me to pull over, grab the camera from the passenger footwell where it lives (I didn't go out with photography in mind) and take a few shots, before everything returned to grey driving rain. In those few seconds a beam of light exposed a stony path like a silver thread, and hill fog turned into pearlescent colours. I think most people would create such a picture in post, or if they'd grabbed it as I did, over-dramatize the event in some way that brought it into question.
     
  8. Eric Rose

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    How a person reacts to any particular photograph is totally dependent on their past and how they view themselves. As artists we can study the psychology around how composition, colour and how subject matter may influence the majority of viewers within a specific demographic. Even then we can not with certainty predict a viewers reaction. All we can do is try and aim for the middle of the bell curve if our goal is to appeal to the masses.

    Or we can create art that speaks to what is real for us. Again based on our past etc. it impacts us in certain ways that some say might be predictable if they knew us well. The "message" of the piece might be totally lost on 95% of viewers but those 5% who have had similar life experiences might share our appreciation on a more internal level.

    I am always amazed at how images I feel are great are passed over by many viewers and those that I create more from a commercial background than a "feelings" perspective are "hits" so to speak. For my own personal photography I only generate images that speak to me. If others like them, that's nice but it's not what motivates me.

    So what is real? What is good? There is only one answer that counts. Yours. Unless you want to make money at it.
     
  9. Vaughn

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    Watkins was adding clouds in the 1800's.
     
  10. Sirius Glass

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    And I did not like it then.
     
  11. Vaughn

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    Yeah...I can remember scratching my head at the time...
     
  12. eddie

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    Then you're holding photography to a different standard than other art mediums. If we're discussing "art" photography, as opposed to documentary/journalism, there should be no expectation (or promise) of reality.
     
  13. Alan Edward Klein

    Alan Edward Klein Member

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    Painting comes from the artist's mind. Everyone understands it's not a photo but the artist's imagination. With photography, it's different. Or at least it had been so. Cameras capture a moment of time. The art is by God. We're only trying to capture His imagination in the best light. If we start compositing elements, adding and removing, then it's no longer a photo but digital art.
     
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    jnantz

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    i think that is the problem ... people know photography as a reality based medium
    things they recognize things that are supposed to be the way they are supposed to be
    i'm surprised jerry uelsmann hasn't been called a visual hack .. LOL
    or man ray with the glass tear or the portraits of yousuf karsh or pretty much any portrait photographer for that matter ..
    and none of it is true and the only thing that makes it "real" ... is you can see it and think its real

    ??
    adding and removing elements has been done since 1839 ..
    even famously with presidential portraits
     
  16. Sirius Glass

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    I am holding photography to its OWN standard. It is also the APUG standard. Why is that such a hard concept for you to grasp?
     
  17. markjwyatt

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    Whether photographers like it or not, in the world of art if something can be done it will be done (an in many cases has been done and is being done). That is why I created this group (which was not well received to put it mildly!) It is not designed to exclude anyone, but to at least create some clarity with voluntary standards.

    https://www.photrio.com/forum/groups/photrio-photographic-arts-standards.154/group

    This group proposes the creation of a set of standards that can be used by Photrio members and encourage other to use to convey the nature of the photographic work they are presenting. An example of such standards are the f/64 group; though I am not proposing rigid standards of this type (there could be a class as such within the standards).

    The initial objective is to create a series of descriptions that can be used as tags on images on the internet, printed work, or wherever users want to use them. The purpose of the tags wold be to lead back to standards related to how images were created and post processed. The tags would indicate to the viewer in a non-judgemental way to what degree the image has fidelity to the original moment in time and space. It would help people decide for themselves whether the image meets their expectations for a photograph, a work of graphic arts, a composite image, etc.

    The idea would be to use the tags ourselves (on Flickr, photo-sharing sites, social media, print, what ever); have links to pages where the tags and the standards they represent are defined; to encourage other people to use the tags, and to lead them to the descriptions.

    The standards are not intended to define "real photography", rather give the public the information they need to understand how modified an image may be (analogous to food labeling).

    The tags could describe general classes of modification (say "Photrio Level1"). They could indicate specific features, e.g., "Photrio: Content added subtle", "Photrio Content added significant", "Photrio: Clouds added", etc. People with special interests could create standards for their own classes, e.g., "Photrio: f/64 digital equivalent".

    Clearly this is most useful for images ultimately distributed digitally, but could also be used for gallery prints etc. (say in the description).

    The proposal would be to create a committee/committees to start defining things, then create standards and tags. If such adequate standards already exist, we could adopt them.
     
  18. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council
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    Photography doesn't have a standard - it is a thing, devoid of morals or ethics. It exists, like nuclear fusion. It can be harnessed for good or ill, for creativity or factual approximation. But it by itself is nothing, devoid of judgment. Just because it is capable of more precise, more consistently repeatable and faster approximation of reality than other plastic arts does not make it any more or less noble, truthful or any other -ism we might want to impose upon it. It is just fast, detailed and consistently repeatable.The fact that I can make 100,000 virtually identical copies of an image over an indefinite span of time does not have relevance to truthfulness.
     
  19. Andrew O'Neill

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    Sounds like a Rod Serling intro for The Twilight Zone :D
     
  20. Sirius Glass

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    << insert background music here>>

    +1
     
  21. Andrew O'Neill

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  22. OP
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    jnantz

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    what + whose personal standard is that ?
    black and white ?
    chromes?
    c41? chromeb/w?
    solarization? sabbitier?
    collage?
    no cropping allowed ? straight print?
    n+1/-1 development ?
    what about burning and dodging or masking ?

    there is absolutely no difference between that stuff and what watkins did ...

    i find it funny that people believe a photograph is the truth or some sort of approximation of the truth
    nothing about photography has anything to do with truth .. the only thing that is true or has to do with truth
    is that something might have been in front of the camera, and even then who knows ...
     
  23. Sirius Glass

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    I am glad that you are having a good laugh, though I have many, many, many times told you and posted on APUG that my problem is adding and removing OBJECTS, and not the dealing with the rest of the items that you insist on posting every single time you respond to my posts. Please make a note of this so that we do not have to see the same movie every time you respond.
     
  24. OP
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    jnantz

    jnantz Advertiser Advertiser
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    huh
    so is using lead to remove a shadow or a blemish on someone's face considered to be removing an object ? or does removing an object
    seem to mean something more substantial like removing orthodontic braces ( with lead and retouching fluids ) or swapping heads ( cut and paste and rephotograph like they did in edwardian times )
    if those things are allowed and other severe manipulations like exposure + control ( like a slow shutter speed to erase objects ) to processing to printing techniques are allowed but
    what you are referring to as object removal is not, this "standard" sounds kind of arbitrary to me ...
    not really laughing just trying to come to some sort of understanding why some object removals and heavy handed manipulations and printing and processing techniques that have been done for 160+ years
    are not the same as what you refer to as "removing objects" ....
     
  25. Sirius Glass

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    As always I am talking about substantial objects, such as removing heads, ears, tails, fangs, vampires, wizards, ...
     
  26. OP
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    jnantz

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    as i said seems arbitrary seeing they all have been done one way or another since 1839
     
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