REALITY AND INTERVENTION

I always try to round of a module with a conclusion to my studies, and in order to do the same thing for Reality and Intervention; I have used most of my conclusion from the assignment.

I have found this module tough, really tough, in fact I think it is the hardest module so far on this degree course, and I think that is because so much research and learning had to take place before I could undertake and complete each of the tasks and exercises.

I also think it was tough because I had to go against my beliefs as a photographer; with each exercise I had to come to terms with what was being asked and in some cases these beliefs were completely shattered.  This all sounds a little dramatic, but I truly felt that I was a purist in my photography, but it turns out that in fact I am not.

It has been an interesting few months though and although I am still very passionate about the use of post-processing and feel that this should be done in a very limited capacity; my thoughts and beliefs surrounding this have shifted slightly.  This shift is partly down to the knowledge gained during this module, but also from the actual learning itself.  Moreover, one question that keeps rolling around in my head is why would you want to rely on a programme such as Photoshop to create beautiful images when there is so much thought, deliberation and work that has go into the process – surly it is better to just go out and take beautiful photos with your camera?

I have always been a staunch advocate in pure photography, thinking that the work I produced was pure and that the smallest tweaks and alterations I made did not count as manipulation.  However, even at the point of shooting we are manipulating our work.  Okay, so what we see with our eyes is different to the interpretation our camera makes of a scene, but often we will use a faster shutter speed to enhance a sunrise/set or a different ISO to increase our sensors ability to work under low light conditions, and even this can be seen as manipulation.

I think the penny finally dropped when we worked through the monochrome exercises during module three; I read a comment stating that converting an image to black and white, for others to see the world as a series of tones, texture and contrasts can be classed by some as a manipulation. For me black and white photography always held an aura of mystery and class, but now I can see that it is still a manipulation.

The exercises and the assignment for Reality and Intervention really opened my eyes to how easy and effective post-processing can be.  Some of the processes we used are processes I use on a regular basis without any cause for concern, but now I am not so sure and my validation that my photography is pure does not ring true.  As soon as we start playing around with the pixels in a RAW, unprocessed data file, we are manipulating our images; to remove that speck of dust or change the white balance to make our images look more succinct, we are manipulating our images.  However, up to a point I think that is okay, as in some cases we can justify this as a rectification of an error caused by our camera’s inability to capture the ‘moment’.   Nevertheless, when we start making changes to the way people look or deleting items that make an image look untidy or less pleasing, then I have issues.  Everyone does it, I have even done it, but my biggest problem is when photographers try to pass these changes off as genuine.  That is when it is wrong as not only can this put pressure on society to look better or be different, but it also shows a false sense of fact “wow, lets go to … the scenery there is fabulous …” all thanks to the manipulated images they saw.

With today’s vast array of technology, we have the ability to do anything we want with our images, so should we believe everything we see in photography today?

Before and After shots of a manipulated photograph

Before and After shots of a manipulated photograph

Some of the biggest stories we read are about the fakery of images in the fashion industry; where Designers want their products and Art Houses want their magazine covers to look good, which in turn is designed to make the public buy, buy, buy. There are many examples of images where Photoshop, or other such manipulation software has been used to this end, and as a photographer I feel appalled by these obvious changes in appearance.  However, it would seem that although it is a common and controversial subject, individual members of society seem okay with this manipulation, to a point …

In 2012, Glamour magazine ran a survey of 1,000 readers to determine their ideas surrounding retouching, the results were quiet an eye-opener:

41% of women aged 18-24 have retouched their photos and 20% of women aged 30-34 have done so.  In fact, 60% said they felt it is okay to tweak personal photos.

Source: Glamour.com

The article goes on to give a list of statistics where readers feel that personal retouching (or manipulating) such as the removal of skin imperfections, is thought of as okay, but it then goes on to state that they are cynical when commercial retouch appears

When women think about commercial retouching, it conjures up an image of a face and body that is biologically impossible and not attainable.  That’s less acceptable to them.  Ms Kearney-Cooke

From the results of this survey, a question I would ask, that I really have no answer too is

More Image Manipulation

More Image Manipulation

this; if retouching had never taken place within the media, would we be as quick to make changes to the way we look in our own photographs?

So, even though there seems to be a double standard when it comes to alteration, if ‘real women’ are not happy with this bombardment from the media, why dose the media keep insisting on making these changes to their images, and it should be noted that women are not the only culprits of this manipulation, as men seem to get the airbrush treatment too.  Personally, I prefer the original image of George Clooney here, far more natural and much better looking.

Thankfully, it seems that a turnaround is slowly taking place, with more and more pressure being applied by peer groups, and various medical associations stating that;

It sets up an unrealistic beauty ideal and creates this feeling of ‘I’m not good enough’

In order to obtain a healthier mind-set within our population, lets hope we see these changes sooner rather than later.

For the assignment, I specifically chose a theme that needed lots of post-processing manipulation and could therefore not be passed as genuine.  Don’t get me wrong, I think that Photoshop and its ability to change and alter things is great, however, there is a specific time and place for this kind of work and as long as the viewer is aware of the manipulation I see no issue with its use in this form.

Today’s generation’s think that image manipulation was born with the onset of digital

Fairies

Fairies

photography, but in fact, this kind of imagery has been around since the early days of the genre.  One of the most famous pieces of fakery within photography took place back in 1917, when cousins Elise Wright and Frances Griffiths photographed ‘Fairies’ at the bottom of their garden.  Billed as the hoax that fooled a nation, many distinguished names, such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, were also taken with the story; but would we be so gullible today in light of the images that can be produced by manipulation software?

Such images as this of a girl holding a glass of milk (which has no title).

Escobedo, M.

Escobedo, M.

Or of this that holds the title ‘Umbrella Girl’

Umbrella Girl

Umbrella Girl

These images are obvious fakes and now that I have a better understanding for Photoshop, I can appreciate the amount of time and effort that went into making these images look great.  HOWEVER, in my mind, they are images and not true representations of photography, as although many photographs have been added together to make one strong image, each can no longer be counted as a photograph.

Moreover, this is when I think that Photoshop (or similar manipulation software packages) works well, and it is times like this that it should be applauded, and not for the times when a photograph has been manipulated and passed off as genuine or true.

I have learnt that photography is really an interpretation of reality, and it is my personal interpretation that I choose to capture within my camera.  I choose were to stand, and what to include within the frame.  I choose the settings to capture a magnificent sunset/rise.  I choose the subject matter and the subjectivity of the photo I intend to capture.  I also choose not to use Photoshop to manipulate my work to such an extent that the reality of what I saw is lost within my interpretation.

There have been many instances where photographers have pushed their ethical standing to the limit and included manipulated images in competitions and won, only to be caught out and disqualified for their effort.  These culprits often blame the rules, stating that they were not aware of them before their photographs were submitted, but surly we are always aware of the rules before we do anything in life.  If something is added, or even taken away (which is often the case), we cross the line between documentary and fiction, which, depending on the image may or may not be okay with you, for me I think there should be some laid out rules.  Be truthful about the changes you make, you will not be though any less of as a photographer for admitting that a small change has been made here and there, in fact you may well be applauded for your honesty, and you will encourage those just starting out who admire what you have achieved.  How can anyone possibly achieve greatness if his or her inspiration is dishonest about the way in which they reached their final goal?

So, I have learnt that I am not a purist in my photography, but I feel that the alterations I make are not so divers that they take away my original interpretation of a scene.  I have learnt that society is very fickle about what can and cannot be manipulated within photography and as long as they are personally comfortable with these changes, then everything is fine.  I have also learnt that Photoshop can be a great tool for making minor alterations to my work and is fantastic for creating mystical imagery that are not possible to achieve in camera.  I have also come to the conclusion that digital image manipulation will never go away, there will always be images of models and actresses looking unnaturally beautiful, thin or athletic, but I believe that as long as I am true to my beliefs, I can become a great photographer and continue to interoperate the world in my own unique way.

Source:

Reference:

Dumas, D.  (2012) Don’t use Photoshop to make models slimmer – but feel free to retouch my Facebook profile: Real women reveal double standard when it comes to airbrush [online article].  Available at: <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2098861/Dont-use-Photoshop-make-models-slimmer–feel-free-retouch-Facebook-profile-Real-women-reveal-double-standard-comes-airbrush.html&gt; [Accessed 28 October 2013].

Escobedo, M.  (n.d.) [n.k.].  Cited in Web Designer Depot (2008) 40 Examples of Incredible Photo Manipulation [online image].  Available at: <http://www.flickr.com/photos/marcoescobedo/2361981880/sizes/o/&gt; [Accessed 28 October 2013].

Griffiths, F., Wright, E.  (1917) Fairies.  Cited in The Two Malcontents (2008) Sherlock Holmes and the curious case of the garden fairies [online article].  Available at: <http://www.the-two-malcontents.com/2008/10/sherlock-holmes-and-the-curious-case-of-the-garden-fairies/&gt; [Accessed 28 October 2013].

Septian 93.  (2011) Umbrella Girl [online image].  Available at: <http://septian93.deviantart.com/art/Umbrella-Girl-91149531&gt; [Accessed 28 October 2013].

Bibliography

Anon.  (2009) 40 Examples of Incredible Photo Manipulation [online gallery].  Available at: <http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2009/06/40-examples-of-incredible-photo-manipulation/&gt; [Accessed 28 October 2013].

Buckley, H.  (2010) Is Photoshop Good or Bad for Photography? [online article].  Available at: <http://www.heatherbuckley.co.uk/is-photoshop-good-or-bad-for-photography/&gt; [Accessed 28 October 2013]

Lodriguss, J.  (n.d.) The Ethics of Digital Manipulation [online article].  Available at: <http://www.astropix.com/HTML/J_DIGIT/ETHICS.HTM&gt; [Accessed 28 October 2013].

Stokes, S.  (2004) Next Stop, Fairyland! [online article].  Available at: <http://www.bbc.co.uk/bradford/sense_of_place/unexplained/cottingley_fairies.shtml&gt; [Accessed 28 October 2013].

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