Recording Images "As Is" or not.

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by snegron, Sep 26, 2006.

  1. snegron

    snegron Member

    Messages:
    808
    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2005
    Location:
    Hot, Muggy,
    Shooter:
    35mm
    This has probably been discussed in this forum many times before, however I am curious to know everyones thoughts on this. There are many definitions of photography, but most of them describe it as the capture of light on a some type of material or other. One thing that sets photography apart from other art forms is that it has the ability to capture subjects as they are. True, we use lighting, posing, and darkroom manipluation to turn our subjects into what our brains imagined them to be despite what our eyes actually observed at the time. My question then is should photography be true to the image as it appeared at the time, or should we manipulate the image through our photographic techniques to obtain our version of what we interpreted the subject to be?

    Since the beginning of photography as we know it people have experimented with images to turn them into interpretive works of art. Is this true photography, or just painting with a different type of paintbrush, a.k.a the camera?

    My reason for this topic is that I recently came across a bit of a dilema while photographing a wedding. The client (bride) wanted to look as thin and beautiful as possible. She wanted her skin to look silky smooth, all elements to be as fairytale-like as possible. My question was why? Afer all, by pleasing my client wouldn't I be "covering up" what she and the event really looked like? If she were to pass away 30 years from now and her grandchildren wanted to see what their grandmother really looked like, wouldn't this be a disservice to them? Do we not as photographers have the responsibility to capture as accurate images as possible without our "artistic interpretation"? After all, what is the purpose of photography to begin with if not capturing images as they were, not as we saw them?


    p.s., I caved in and did the cheesy fairytale shots anyway. After all, I needed to get paid. That, however, did not make me feel any better about "cheating" future generations by masking what the bride and event really looked like.
     
  2. ronlamarsh

    ronlamarsh Member

    Messages:
    462
    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2004
    Location:
    Seattle Wash
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    As is or not

    Well you gotta eat so I don't see a problem with the cheesy shots if that is what the customer wants. Besides its really a question of artisit integrity: burning in, dodging or other darkroom techniques to produce the fine print which causes the viewer to feel something is all perfectly ok as far as i am concerned.
    Starting a fire in a national park to provide some spectacular light that is naturally unavailable is crimminal.
    So in the end it is a personal decision. I saw a spectacular shot once of a single grass stem with its seeds on top ready to scatter growing perfectly centered in a hole(vandals) in a chain link fence I found it to be very Zen. Well the image I took was later ruined in the darkroom. I went back and it was gone so this year at the same time of year I returned to see if I could find it all over again. Some one had come by with a weed whacker and the grass was gone. So I found some grass near by picked a suitable piece threaded in the chain link to duplicate what I had seen the year before and made the image. Was I bad? Was it fake? Is it or the emotion it evokes unreal and therfore false? I don't know: I do know that I would never misrepresent it for something it is not. In other words when asked I would tell the whole sordid story. I still like the image but have to admit that I don't feel the same sense of awe and wonder over the capricious nature of the universe because I know what I did.
    Bottom line I'll keep retuning to that spot in Sept until I can get it for real.
    But this whole story begs the question of the studio still life which is accepted as valid so what does everybody else think?
     
  3. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

    Messages:
    4,049
    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2004
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I have been shooting weddings for a number of years now and always try to fullfill the couples wishes, after all, I also need to eat, many brides would like something different on their wedding day, I don't really consider it much different than the bride paying a hair stylist or a make up artist to create something that is different that what might actually be true, after all, that is why the glamor shots company did as good as they did for quite a long time, they created an illusion, I won't digitally manipulate an image and my clients know it, but I will use my skills to fullfill the wishes of the paying client. When I decided to be a photographer for hire, I had to put my feelings in the back ground, although, I do make suggestions. But as a photographer who receives money on contract from a client, as long as it is not illegal, my job is to document based on their desires, if I want to be artsy, I need to not shoot for money, which I do quite often...

    Dave
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 27, 2006
  4. colivet

    colivet Member

    Messages:
    236
    Joined:
    May 28, 2004
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    I would have done the same. Picture her in the way she wants to be seen. Seems important to her so it should be important to you to portray her as she likes. The are many truths to express in photography. Maybe it is not as important to register the human body as the lens so exactly can. Maybe this was more about her feelings. Maybe she felt the moment was very Romantic, and she though that going pictorial, soft focus, smooth tones would do it.
    I don't see nothing wrong in what you did but if you feel strongly about it you can always pass.
     
  5. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

    Messages:
    3,242
    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2004
    Location:
    Milwaukee, W
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I think that it is a question that each photographer decides for themselves. I do no work for hire. I am more interested in expressive documentation than I am about having any pretensions..or post tensions..of creating art. But since art is not what I sought and the documentation is generally satisfactory to me, I am satisfied.
     
  6. jss

    jss Member

    Messages:
    200
    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2004
    Location:
    San Francisc
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    i think photography is all about interpretation. otherwise, once color film was developed everybody would have moved away from black and white. but it is still there and has a particular "feel" to it that seems universal. so i think that's one of the hints that there's more to photography than just accurate recreation.
     
  7. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

    Messages:
    17,055
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    Delta, BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    One can reveal a lot of truth in even the most intentionally flattering photographs.

    I am afraid that if you are looking at weddings or wedding photos to reveal what a person is really like, in their every day life, you are risking disappointment.

    Weddings are extra-ordinary events, and people want to appear wonderful, not normal, in them.

    Even in the smallest, and most low keyed affairs, people want to appear different than they do in their every day life.

    If you are concerned, you can probably catch a few more mundane revealing images during the reception:D . Especially of the guests:D .

    Matt
     
  8. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

    Messages:
    6,242
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2002
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Well after awhile we either lose our idealism or we go hungry or marry someone who has a trust fund that allows us to pursue our idealistic ideals.

    Besides in today's world the bill for the photographer usually lasts longer than the marriage.
     
  9. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    4,350
    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2005
    Location:
    Montréal (QC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    If I take the theoretical part of your question "should we represent things as they are or not" then I'd say you're asking the wrong question. If you do or do not represent things as they are, the APUG police will not come after you, and you need not to be examined or sent to a reeducation camp. The question is "do I want to represent generally accepted ideals of truth or a more subjective point of view?"

    Photography isn't truth, in and of itself, and that has been beaten to death, woken up with cold water, and re-beaten again over photo's history. However, we have established standards of truthfulness (truthiness?) in photo because it has proved reliable in many things like forensic investigation, etc.

    Deep down, there is nothing that precludes "falsehood" in photo. I say falsehood in quotation because it's more about make-believe than truth conditions.

    Now go give a good kick to Plato in his cave, and worry yourself not my son.
     
  10. mark

    mark Member

    Messages:
    5,270
    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2003
    Why do you care about what future generations think about this wedding?

    This will probably grate with some people, but IMO the job of the wedding photographer is to document the fairy tale in a fairy tale manner. Most men could really care less about the wedding. Their fairy tale is the wedding night. the wedding itself is for the lady and guess what she wants the fairy tale. If she did not she would not have hired a pro nor gone through the whole wedding hassel. Uncle Marty, and his digisnap would do just fine to document the event. You aren't there as a documentary photographer.
     
  11. jstraw

    jstraw Member

    Messages:
    2,703
    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2006
    Location:
    Topeka, Kans
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Word.

    "One thing that sets photography apart from other art forms is that it has the ability to capture subjects as they are."

    What a great illusion is this, notion that photography is objective.
     
  12. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

    Messages:
    20,108
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2003
    Location:
    local
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    i see nothing wrong or unethical about making the photographs the bride asked for. that is what she paid you for, isn't it?


    this kind of reminds me of a printer i once took my work to.
    i arrived in his lab negatives in hand and a proof sheet.
    i had a crop made and said "i need 1/8" borders so they match the rest of my client's portfolio" ...

    he critiqued my work, told me the client's choice of crop was wrong, and then told me the photograph needed to be printed without borders (full bleed). i said " please print it the way my client asked it to be printed"
    when i picked up the prints, they were printed as HE wanted, not as I had asked. i didn't pay for the prints, took the negatives somewhere else, and never went back to him again ...
     
  13. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,981
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2002
    Location:
    Wine country, N. Cal.
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    A few points:

    Photographing people in a "flattering" manner is no more an illusion than photographing them in an unflattering manner.

    What is reality? Nothing more than a perception.

    A camera mounted on a building like a security camera can make photographs that are "unmanipulated". I would hope that with my brain, craft and talent I would choose to do more than that.


    Michael
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

    Messages:
    2,386
    Joined:
    May 10, 2006
    Location:
    Aurora, IL
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Just a thought, may be you can hire a model?
     
  16. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    4,350
    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2005
    Location:
    Montréal (QC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The darnest thing about this problematic conception of photo as an "objective" form of art is that someone with a dedicated mind and perfected skill could make a painting that looks exactly the same as a photograph, so much that a casual viewer wouldn't see the difference.

    If there was something about objectivity in photo, it would not be in the representational means (i.e. Albertian perspective, proportionality of gray tones to light ratios, etc), but in the process itself. One could argue that there was a physical being which reflected light and then impressed a sensitive surface. But in the end, the result could still be indistinguishable from the possible painting I alluded to above.

    So for me, at the deep down bottom of the question, there is no such thing as truth in photography. However, there is a variable (0-99.99...%) level of trust that I can ascribe to the relationship between a photo and an actual state of affairs based on the process: it's actually easier to produce an image that will give me information about its subject via photography than it is to make one that gives false one (i.e. montage is harder than snapshot). On the other hand, I don't think it's harder to make a drawing that is innaccurate than to make one that is accurate, and perhaps that's why a drawing does not have the same forensic weight as a photo.
     
  17. Daniel_OB

    Daniel_OB Member

    Messages:
    420
    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2006
    Location:
    Mississauga,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Photography is a mass medium, practiced by just anyone: by grandpa that once in her life had a camera in hands, well she shot and she is a photographer. Passers that snap someone because no tripod in camera owner, well he snapped so he is a photographer, HC-B he is a photographer,… just anyone is photographer today. However this so far does not means that anyone is relevant for just anything around photography. This is a point no one will ever accept. Evan and more to one that own Nikon F5 you tell him he is not an artist, I walk away. Art is work of mass (not for me) not an artist because everyone also has its own definition for just anything around photography (e.g. what is art, what is artist, what is photography, is photography truth,….). This “photographers” structure (car repearers, opticians, icecreem sellers, pro-boxers,…) is a reason for so many discussions about well known thinks, discussion that leads nowhere, discussion that no one need,…. This is the reason that people well educated around the matter just cannot see reason for discussions on internet (which is not useful - proved again and again).

    As someone put in this thread "Photography isn't truth, in and of itself, and that has been beaten to death, woken up with cold water, and re-beaten again over photo's history."

    By who it is “beaten to death”? by people that own a photo camera…

    One of property of photogtaphy is truthfulness BUT truthfulness in photography is misunderstood in its root. Walking to universe dead due to thermodynamic law, there is no such think as truth. There is even nothing. No existence at all at very end. However we have definitions for meaning of many words in accepted world, and they make as to exist. Art historians say “photography is not COMPLETELY reproduction of reality”. This is very different things. Reallity consist of 3-dimensional things and has 4 dimension (time as 4th dim). Photograph is 2-dimensional object (lack 3rd dim, or walk around the object) and has no time as dimension. That is meaning of COMPLETELY. Brain of human, using a photograph, can reconstruct the event into 3 dim using experience, and can reconstruct time using brain ability. But this is human involvement. This is why photography ever existed. If photography is investigated 200 years earlier it will never see day light. No one was after the system (that yielded photography) but after a new art form. However businessmans saw oportunity and things got where they are today. But it does not change anything of photography's properties.

    Photograph is one stroke art (talking about art photography), painting and carving is multithousands stroke “art”. Many things (or arts) are in between (e.g. drawing, engraving, water color, …). What more srokes one ads to photograph he is going away from photography toward other end (painting). However what that added strokes are defines one is still within the frame of photography or not. Similar with any other art.

    And what is photography is very clearly defined by S. Herschel. However photography for “ALL PEOPLE” is a picture on the paper where a camera is involved, and this is all grandpa (see above) knows and is based on her past experience and lack of interest for the definition. Many definitions are derived from this one.

    So
    One of photography inherent property IS truthfulness. Even and more, a photograph is “biggest” truthfulness human ever investigated. Photographs can be “changed” but one should KNOW where to stop to keep his work still within photography. Moving finger is not enough knowledge. AGAIN picture on the paper with camera involved is not a photograph always. Well tell to … , I walk away.

    No other art form suffers from misunderstanding of medium’s inherent properties and its limitations as photography does. Well who cares? Be happy.

    www.Leica-R.com
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 27, 2006
  18. Lopaka

    Lopaka Member

    Messages:
    757
    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2006
    Location:
    Michigan
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Yup.

    Bob
     
  19. Lopaka

    Lopaka Member

    Messages:
    757
    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2006
    Location:
    Michigan
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Sometimes true. I once had a wedding client that broke up before taking delivery of the album. It sat on the back shelf for 7 years. Then they got back together and decided they wanted the original wedding pictures, paid the balance and picked it up. Good timing - it was about to be incinerated.

    Bob
     
  20. don sigl

    don sigl Member

    Messages:
    306
    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2006
    Location:
    Durham, NC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    There is no such thing as a literal photograph. Anything "As is" still needs to go process through the medium and the personality (intelligence?) of the individual making the photograph. You or I could not possibly create a universally real image.
    I once read about an exhibit where you were asked to look into a box. The inside was completely black. There was nothing to see or any way to judge the size or depth of the interior. It could have been a foot deep or as wide as a light year. Then you were asked to move a lever at the top of the box. The lever lowered a chrome wand into the blackness. The wand was brilliantly lit. It turns out the box was not empty at all. On the contrary, it was filled with an intense light.
    The physics is so strange, I mean, who really knows what a photon is? And how can it be what it is? A Messenger of reflection.
    The exhibit demonstrated the irony of our visual reality. What it shows us is that we have no concrete visual understanding of the universe. All that we see...is reflection.
    How can we say anything we see is true? If you plunge a stick into a pool of water, you can see it bend. But physically, it is not bent at all. What you see is the reflection of the stick in refracted light. We all know the stick did not physically change shape.
    Look at the Heisenberg uncertainty priciple. Simply stated there is no way to know the exact position and velocity of anything. The reason: The act of measurement alters the existence. The act of conciousness detrermines reality.
     
  21. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

    Messages:
    4,090
    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2006
    Location:
    NYC or Copak
    Shooter:
    35mm
    The bride was a potential client. She was entering into a contract with you for services, and told you what her terms and conditions were for you to get her business.

    If you wanted her business, then you had to accept her terms and conditions. Which you did. So, you were contractually obligated to perform your tasks under those terms and conditions.

    If you felt otherwise, you could (should) have turned down her business. But once agreed upon, you had no choice but to comply with the contractual terms.

    Which you did. Remember, you were hired for a specific service, and it wasn't to record her "AS -IS".

    As to "recording AS-IS for posterity" - not to worry. I'm sure a lot of her friends and relatives took all kinds of amateurish snapshots showing all kinds of warts, pimples, red-eye, over-exposure etc. Even the ones who used digis probably don't know how to fix things in PS (and don't have the time to do so anyway!) :wink:
     
  22. snegron

    snegron Member

    Messages:
    808
    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2005
    Location:
    Hot, Muggy,
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Many (many) years ago my parents got divorced. Several years after the divorce my mother did a "spring cleaning" and threw out many unwanted items, including her old wedding album. Luckily I got home before the garbage pick up that day and spotted the old wedding album in the trash can. I rescued it and asked her why she had thrown it away. She simply said that it was old and useless, filled only with old black and white photos. I argued that it had sentimental value and wanted to keep the album.

    Many years passed and several wedding guests pictured in that album passed away. As it turns out, several of those "old useless black and white pictures" were the only surviving images of these guests. Their likeness, captured in black and white, were the only images captured of them in youth available to their children and grandchildren. I was able to confirm that these images were true likenesses of the subjects and were not altered fairytale pictures by some photographer or darkroom artist. I am extremely glad that the photographer kept true to the people and the event that day, otherwise there would be no way of knowing what the people really looked like, what their emotions truely were at the time.
     
  23. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

    Messages:
    9,523
    Joined:
    May 24, 2005
    Location:
    Washington DC
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Wedding photos are a very strange animal. I think as regards the bride, since most brides are operating on the day of their wedding in something between a frenzy and a psychotic collapse, the photographer (and the other folks assisting the bride on the day) do have a duty to make her look as good as possible, since she probably would look far worse if the kind makeup, hair, and other assistants were not there chasing after her to keep her in order. Also, as has been stated before, for many brides, the wedding itself is a major fantasy for them, and they'd like to have the fantasy preserved, especially if they don't look like what they have pictured in their heads on that day, and they know it (breaking out in pimples from the stress, gained/lost significant weight just before the event, etc).

    The guests, on the other hand, well... you don't owe them jack. They're not writing your paycheck. Catch them, warts and all, and leave them to be seen as such for all posterity. I think that's half the fun of revisiting a wedding album - seeing Uncle Louie with his toupee slipping, or Aunt Bertha with the gin bottle poking out the top of her purse.
     
  24. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

    Messages:
    4,049
    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2004
    Shooter:
    Multi Format


    Ya but, now you are talking about two entirely different subjects, you are talking about what a bride wants for HER look and how the audience in attendance were documented, which in wedding photography is a deep void, our job as wedding photographers are to take the pictures(images) of the bride and groom in the professional manner they contracted with us for, fortunately or unfortunately the audience is a secondary subject in the wedding album, you were lucky and nice to preserved the images taken of the various audience members and I am sure it really helped the people who were related to them and they enjoyed seeing them in the later years after they had passed, but the couple getting married didn't contract with you to document the audience, she contracted you to document her and the groom..

    Dave
     
  25. snegron

    snegron Member

    Messages:
    808
    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2005
    Location:
    Hot, Muggy,
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I think that part of the confusion is due to the commercial aspect of wedding and portrait photography. There is a false perception that "photojournalistic style" wedding photography is an unaltered recording of the event to include subjects and their emotions in a realistic way. Are we to capture the event as it occurred, or are we to make it seem that we captured the event as it occurred? If we choose to capture the event as it occurred, won't we be untruthful to our clients if we alter our main subjects (bride and groom) and alter their surroundings by posing "photojournalistic-type" shots? I guess that my concern narrows down to the fact of why I was hired to begin with. Was I hired to record the event as it occurred as is my defined style, or was I hired to create an artistic interpretaion that simmulates my true journalistic style?
     
  26. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

    Messages:
    4,049
    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2004
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Snegron,

    You were hired because they already like your style, or they would not hire you!

    You are hired and paid to do what they want and how they want their wedding documented, your feelings really don't come into it as long as it is:

    1 Legal
    2 Ethical

    There is nothing more or nothing less to take into account, people hire photographers for one simple reason, they like your style and they want you to document their event in the manner they are paying for, it is pretty plain and simple, my artistic sense does not come into the equation when I am negotiating a contract with a client that is paying the bill, I will document the event in the manner in which they want, I always meet with my clients at least twice to discuss the manner in which they want their wedding documented, then I send them a check list with the shots they think they want and let them decide, then that is what I do, period plain and simple, it is their day, they are paying big bucks based on the samples I have showed them and chose to hire me, if I want artistic shots that I can use for my portfolio, then I hire a model and rent the props and take the pictures...

    Bottom line, you were hired to do what the client stipulates at the signing of the contract...period. That is why it pays to develope several different styles to meet the needs of any client you might run into.

    Dave