Recording Images "As Is" or not.
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.
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?
No escaping it!
I must step on fallen leaves
to take this path
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...
Last edited by Dave Parker; 09-26-2006 at 11:09 PM. Click to view previous post history.
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.
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.
Claire (Ms Anne Thrope is in the darkroom)
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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.
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 . Especially of the guests .
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.
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.
Using film since before it was hip.
"One of the most singular characters of the hyposulphites, is the property their solutions possess of dissolving muriate of silver and retaining it in considerable quantity in permanent solution" — Sir John Frederick William Herschel, "On the Hyposulphurous Acid and its Compounds." The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal
, Vol. 1 (8 Jan. 1819): 8-29. p. 11
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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.
Technological society has succeeded in multiplying the opportunities for pleasure, but it has great difficulty in generating joy. Pope Paul VI
So, I think the "greats" were true to their visions, once their visions no longer sucked. Ralph Barker 12/2004