On Thursday, Jan 24th, MPR ran a show titled, “The Death of Photography,” addressing issues relating to how photography has changed with the development of digital photography. The majority of the show dealt with image manipulation so I thought it fitting to include a link to the audio of the show (you need Real Player to listen) and present two images, the finished black and white image you first see, and the ORIGINAL IMAGE as it came out of the camera, I shot on my trip in California.
One of the most profound statements I heard during the show (I paraphrase) was that one of the speakers was drawn to photography specifically because the world ASSUMED a (film) camera was documenting TRUTH, when in fact it was presenting an image that represented a reality the photographer wanted the world to see and experience. So, I’ve laid out the key processes in the presentation of the next image and titled this post, “From Truth to Reailty.”
From Truth to Reality, Phase 1: The Camera
1) Truth: there was ocean surf, heavy sky, reef/rock formations, wind. This is what we see as the tangible things we connect with in our lives.
2) Lie: next to me the entire time was a grandfather and grandchild who I convinced to stay off these rocks and away from the surf because it was big, there were dangerous rogue waves, and I feared for the little boy’s safety. What you don’t see is a fishing boat just camera left. What you don’t see are the giant cliffs immediately behind me that rise up to our hotel, you don’t hear the voices of other people on the beach, the young teenage couple stealing a giggle and kiss under the concrete stairs, you don’t hear the dogs barking or the rush of the surf. YOU DON”T SEE THE SUN BREAKING THROUGH BEHIND ME, creating flow of light. None of these things I’ve listed are part of the REALITY I want to present, yet they are all some version of the truth and experience you would have had, had you been there. But you weren’t, and the camera is incapable of presenting it all. The Camera is exclusive, not inclusive.
From Truth to Reality, Phase 2: The Capture
Many of my landscapes that start with COLOR, as a subject, will often get converted to black and white and many remain in color. This image was never conceived as a color image; it was going to be black and white right from the get go…which meant, as it does to black and white FILM photographers, that I begin filtering to produce a final image that was HIGH CONTRAST. Its just a starting point…getting more potential contrast in the capture. For digital I have my OWN process of doing this which involves a “blue/gold color polarizer” and then telling my camera its shooting Tungsten film. Tungsten film, in a film world, is BIASED to produce accurate colors when the dominant light source is a light bulb. Keep in mind, Ansel Adams was a good photographer, but a GREAT printmaker…this is what he gave to the world of photography…an experience with a subject through black and white photography you otherwise couldn’t have…
From Truth to Reality, Phase 3: The Print
After capture there is conversion to black and white…a two IMAGE process. Here’s where computers become amazing (unless you prefer the darkness and chemicals of a dark room and print shop)…I use the computer to generate TWO different color versions of the image (one for sky and one for water) that ultimately get me to the levels of gray I want in those areas. I combine them and convert to black and white, WHICH IS A BIASED PROCESS, given that the computer assumes something very average. I then go to work, like a printmaker, dodging and burning the image to create the tonal values I want for this experience. This is manipulation, in the same way Ansel manipulated a print 10, 20, 30 times before he was happy with the tonal range. The image you see next was most recently manipulated just moments ago, prior to posting, to get even more tonal depth in one corner.
So, in summary…a provacative image (and I think this one is) starts with a provacative subject, great capture process that includes the photographer’s vision for the image and excludes many subjects that would distract from the message, and the post-production which allows you and me to have a specific, exclusive experience with the subject. And now, the images…
Truth (?), or what came out of the camera:
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