Adding/Subtracting from the Image

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by arigram, Apr 3, 2005.

  1. arigram

    arigram Member

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    I would like to know where do you stand on the issue of adding or substracting elements from an image. I don't mean making a part lighter or darker I mean cutting off portions or adding complete visual elements when did not exist in the beggining.
    Is it still considered a photograph? Or does it fall in the general category of "two dimensional image" photographically created?
    Does photography have an deeper essence or is it just what you produce with a camera somewhere in the creation stage?
    For example having the negative of a landscape and using another negative to enter the moon in the scene. Or cutting off a tree or two by dodge/burn. Or somehow erase a man that walks past your image.
    Let me make myself clear that I do not consider cropping as such because being bound by the viewpoint of a lens and/or the size of the negative, choosing your viewpoint is another matter.

    My stance is that a photograph ends with a negative. What you do in the printing stage is for the presentation of the photograph. The creation of an image with different means have other names and essence (photocollage, photograms, etc). Now with digital this whole matter has been clouded as with a "overwritte save" you make your new creation the original.

    I believe that the essence of the photograph is the capture of a material scene with one shutter click and is what seperates it from the other two-dimensional visual arts such as painting, gravure, etc

    What is your stance?
     
  2. Pete H

    Pete H Member

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    Is it different if you sandwich two negatives to insert the moon from making a double exposure on one sheet of film - a daytime scene with a night moon, maybe with a different lens? Then the result is one neg, but two shutter clicks to make it.

    Personally I dodge and burn quite happily, but even cropping makes me feel slightly uncomfortable, although I still do it. Anything involving changing the elements of the image seems quite wrong.

    On the other hand, doubtless many people have tried to "photograph the wind" (as I have), using multiple exposures of trees or grass in motion. Why does it seem ok to do that in camera, but not at the printing stage?

    There's nothing like a bit of inconsistency to keep life interesting :wink:
     
  3. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    When you frame, you cut away what's out of the frame.

    When you snap, you take away the volume and the color (even color film is jsut an approximation), you take away the air and the sound and the smells and reduce everything to stillness.

    To worry about the absolute truth of the thing after that is a bit self-deluding.
     
  4. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    Photography for me is simply a means of communicating an event, idea, memory or, in fact, anything that I wish to pass on or share with those who are prepared to view it. Therefore, if I have to make one image from two or more negatives then so be it: if I can capture the whole thing in one exposure, great! I see no difference in significant burning and dodging on a print made from a single negative and creating the final image by any other means. My take is that the end result is the important element and I'm happy to do whatever is required to best present the reason for making the image in the first place.
     
  5. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    As far as a work of art goes it matters not at all how you got there--whatever you do or don't do to the negative is fine--including drawing on it, combining it, collaging it, cropping it, to name only a very few of the many possible things.

    One does, or should do, what gives one the most pleasure in the process. Personally, I get the greatest satisfaction when I see things complete on the ground glass. For me, that is an intense and incomparable moment.
     
  6. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    I'm of the opinion that intent and usage have to play a major part of any image manipulation issue. If the intent is to deceive and the usage dishonest, the manipulator has crossed the line, whatever the media.
     
  7. arigram

    arigram Member

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    What I should clarify is what I consider the distinction between an image and a photograph. When you are creating an artwork you can use any means necessery, I have no problems with that. An image is an image no matter how it was created.
    What I am talking about is photography which for me is a sub-category of image making. I draw, I paint, I do computer graphics, I do all kinds of two dimensional art (and sculpture as well, but that is beyond the point).
    But a photograph for me is not what is on the printed paper, but what is on the negative. That's why I very rarely crop and when I do it was because I lacked the necessery lens or set up for the photograph.
    But then that's just me so I happy to read people's philosophy.
     
  8. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I agree with Ralph. As long as it's not presented as journalism or documentary or in the case of advertising a faithful representation of the object being advertised, I see nothing inherently wrong with image manipulation. It has been part of photography virtually since the beginning. Virtually all professional portraits from the late nineteenth-century until the 1960s (and a substantial amount even after that) involved hand work on the negative and the print.
     
  9. haris

    haris Guest

    As I know, there is possibility to make negative or slide on printer from digital file. So, one make image using digital camera, or even drawing at computer, and make with computer printer slide of that art piece viewable on slide projector, or negative which can be future be printed in darkroom, just like "normal" negative. So, it is expression of artist, communication through two dimensional visual art technique (and since result is slide or negative, you can imagine what it is...), or whatever, but is it a photograph? Remember, in this case we have existing slide or negative of that art piece, but we didn't make that slide or negative with film camera, and with developing in photo chemicals, we made that slide or negative with computer and printer. So, is it a photograph?...
     
  10. arigram

    arigram Member

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    Certainly there are all kinds of ways to make a negative.
    I remember when I saw the first negative maker for computers that the local university had, some fifteen years ago.
    But that is still not the point I am trying to convey.
    What I am talking about is the instanteneous creation using captured light from the material world. You can challenge my words (is an exposure of an hour or more instanteneous, and so on) but I think you know where I am getting at.
    With all other arts there is a long creation process of building up slowly the final artwork.
    The only other parallel I can make with photography is chinese painting which comes out of the philosophy of writting: what you did is what you did, you can't go back and change it.
    Photography for me is even more like the writting of a chinese character: a mind focused on the writting brush, one stroke, one character. You can't go back and change what you did. If you didn't succed you move on.
     
  11. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    Everybody confines themselves within the borders of what they call their style, or their way of seeing (with the occasional experimentations needed for growth). If you didn't, your work would be scattered, directionless, weakened by diffusion. Ansel said something to the effect of, "If I am to photograph a rock, I must present a rock". Minor White approached that same subject matter in a completely different way, using the textures and forms to express his inner self. I think anything goes if it communicates your message, at least in terms of photography as art as opposed to documentation, or news.

    Myself, I use whatever is on the negative. I don't feel a need to add to what nature provides. I don't remove or add anything from the scene photographed. I will burn or spot out annoying high print value bits that confuse the composition. I'll crop as needed - the world sometimes doesn't come in 4x5 rectangles. I'll dodge, burn, and use whatever masks the image calls for. The only limits I put on myself are that I don't want the veiwer to know that dark, menacing cloud actually was a value VIII on the proof print. I want the veiwer to accept the image as fact. Others create compelling images by disregarding everything I just said.

    As stated already, if it's honest, it works...tricks for effect always feel wrong. Everybody gets to write their own rules.

    Murray
     
  12. TPPhotog

    TPPhotog Member

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    We already change the scene by composition, choice of lens, depth of field, speed, dodging and burning ... so I don't see any problem with sandwiching negs or using any other techniques you want to convey the message or effect your after. It's been done since the birth of photography and always will be.
     
  13. chuck94022

    chuck94022 Subscriber

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    I think it is fine for *you* to define your art as what is on the negative, and that the print is merely a mechanism for conveying that content to a viewer (and thus you are probably just as comfortable scanning a negative for the web I presume.)

    For you, the art of your photography is the production of a great negative.

    However, that does not mean that for everyone, photography ends at the negative. It certainly doesn't for me. For me, the important result is the print (or in the case of web presentation, the .jpg).

    I frequently crop, because the image I *see* won't fit precisely in the fixed frame of my camera. However, I generally make a conscious decision at the time of taking that this will be a cropped final result (I previsualize the crop). I will still try to compose a good full frame shot, because I like to work with an appealing raw material.

    Further, I view those classic oval portraits as photographs, even though I don't know of anyone who creates those nice oval crops in camera.

    So for you, I think it is fine that you constrain yourself as you do, but that doesn't alter my personal view of what constitutes a photograph for me.

    -chuck
     
  14. Bill Mobbs

    Bill Mobbs Member

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    I do mostly street photography, and I am sometimes only the shutter speed away from missing the photograph. If someone in the background has his finger up his nose or maybe just up... He will may get cropped, dodged, or burned, or all of the above. Some times he is left alone and you see it all. If you had been on the street you would have seen it. It's up the photographer. The thing that appeals to me most about photography is no rules to limit my expression. To your on self be true.
     
  15. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    All the above is true.

    I don't think I can explain why, and I recognize all the internal inconsistencies that my position entails as described by others above, but I am not comfortable with the idea of taking multiple images, combining them and calling the result "a photograph". Happy to see one if it's called a "montage", but a "photograph" for me stops at a single negative. I have seen beautiful images that could not be made without inserting a stunning sky that did not exist and I love them (see Frank Hurley) but if I'm not told and find out later, I feel cheated.

    Yes, you can have multiple exposures in camera (inconsistency #1) and I am happy, but take the sky from one negative and print it with another negative and I am unhappy - unless you tell me you have done that, in which case, fair enough.

    I think the important thing is honesty in the final image. Tell me it's a composite an I am happy to enjoy the image as such. Don't tell me and I feel I am being deceived if I subsequently find out. This is one of the things that bother me about digital images - I feel there is no inherent honesty in the final image. It could have been produced from a dozen elements and I would never know. I don't call that a photograph; it's an image, possibly a great one, but not a photograph.

    Cheers, Bob.
     
  16. arigram

    arigram Member

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    Of course Chuck! I am not trying to enforce a general philosophy on photography, just asking people's viewpoints and offering mine, that's all!
    Just needed to clarify my philosophy a couple times so I was not going to be misunderstood.
    Its a discussion after all. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions and everyone has their own artistic philosophy.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 3, 2005
  17. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    I agree with most of what has been said here. You do what ever you do to produce your own "vision".

    That being said, I still feel cheated, not impressed, disappointed, whatever, if it was not done in the physical craftsmanship manner. Meaning if it was done on a computer, I do not respect it. Going through something like the photonet gallery and seeing incredible pictures but feeling nothing for them because to me they cheated.

    Thats just me. I know full well that digital enhancement can be is it's own particular "craft" but the pictures mean nothing to me.

    Michael
     
  18. MSchuler

    MSchuler Subscriber

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    I agree - if you are doing photojournalism, adding or subtracting content is much more improper than if you are doing art, but it all depends on context. Overall, this seems a lot like that definition of pornography: I cannot define improper photo-manipulation, but I know it when I see it. It can get very complicated.

    My major concern is modification-creep: if you let small changes go, then people start making larger ones. Recently I registered my unhappiness with a professional journal (Planning, October 2003 issue) that contained an architectural photograph that was obviously a fabrication: a picture of a school where the students in the image were pasted in. The "sin" here was laziness - the photographer couldn't be bothered to get real students. Next time, maybe it will be raining, so they paste in a different background... I got a phone call from the Art Director, but strangely my letter was never printed. Since then I've seen this sort of thing get a lot of media coverage (relatively-speaking) and I've thought about starting a collection.
     
  19. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    The photographic print is the final determiner of the photographer's vision consistant with the statement that he or she wishes to make. How this print is produced is irrelevant insofar as the artistic statement is concerned. That unfortunately does, by definition, open this to digital manipulation. I do not practice or embrace that particular means of expression in my practice. Preferring, instead, to practice film based photography.

    For instance where would one find the images that Misha Gordin presents in actual reality (www.bsimple.com) or for that matter those that Jerry Uelesmann creates. Both are unarguably photographers that are widely accepted and applauded. Both are furthermore artists in their own right. Both, insofar as I know, continue to work within the realm of film based photography differing only in the procedure by which they print their compositions.