What is a Photograph?   1 comment

I’ve been reading some blog posts regarding photograph “manipulation”. There are those who feel that any change to the image captured on film or memory card should not be changed in any way unless the viewer is notified. Then there are those that feel that some adjustments can be made as long as the image is true to what the photographer saw. And then there are those who feel that photography is art and the photographer is allowed the same freedom as other visual artists. I more or less belong to this latter group.

The first question I would have to ask those that feel what comes from the camera should be unprocessed in any way so that it is a “real” image is what is your definition of “real”? Does that mean we should throw out all the images by Edward Weston or Ansel Adams because they photographed in black and white? I have walked a number of trails and visited a number of sites, but I have never seen one that wasn’t in color. Black and white images are not “real.” Then do we throw out all of Adams’s images because he spent hours even days in the darkroom dodging and burning until he got the image that he wanted? Of course not. Then why do we think that for a photograph to be valid it must be unprocessed?

In painting, for example, we accept the works of Picasso and Norman Rockwell as both being valid works of art. Yet Rockwell’s paintings are “realistic” and Picasso’s aren’t. Why then is the photographer not allowed to adjust or manipulate an image to get the image that he or she feels? Did Picasso tell his viewers that his paintings were not “real” representations of the subject? Of course not. Why then if I put the trees in silhouette or over saturate the sunset should I need to tell the viewer that it really wasn’t that dark when I took the photograph and the clouds were not quite that red in hue?

However, all that being said, I do believe that there is a time to do nothing to a photograph except clean it up, etc. A travel photographer who is documenting a location should never add elements to the photograph that were not there. Yes, if they are shooting on a rare overcast day adding clouds to the sky and brightening the image would be okay, however recoloring the Eiffel Tower would not. Any photograph that claims to document a location should be true to the location.

And that’s my view on “manipulation”


Posted March 8, 2012 by hwilliam in Photography

One response to “What is a Photograph?

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  1. I enjoyed your post, and funny I just was writing about the same thing on my blog. I linked yours with mine because I think you said it so well.

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