Tag Archives: truth

The bricks of the Yellow Brick Road weren’t made out of gold, they were just painted yellow.

How important is truthfulness in photography?  In photojournalism at least the importance is obvious. A photograph, as Susan Sontag writes in her essay In Plato’s Cave (On Photography, 1977), “passes for incontrovertible proof that a given thing happened.”  Well maybe not so much nowadays, at least not exactly as it happened..

Manipulation of images isn’t a new thing of course but it wasn’t so easy in analog times, and there was always the physical negative to fall back on if required, unless it had been destroyed, in which case it may have called into question the authenticity of the printed image.  With digital imaging and sophisticated and capable image editors today we are not so sure, and presumably it will only become more difficult.

Well, in this case , a well known photographer has apologized for the offending staff’s transgression (now there’s an excuse of I ever heard one..), however it led sleuths to discovering interesting things about some of his other photographs, such as people or objects being removed.

If a child has been removed from a photograph because it made for a more effective photograph does this mean that the event photographed didn’t happen?  If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around…? I would say yes and no, but more precisely, the photograph has now portrayed a different reality of the event. Some might say that, well, the child could have been removed from the frame during the composition which is true but in that case that is exactly what should have been done.

Another interesting instance was this Nikon competition where a badly photoshopped image won, and led to all sorts of great fun! Some competitions now require the original RAW file to be presented together with the final image. In the future will there will be some sort of 3rd party authentication or guarantee for photographers selling prints perhaps?

The offending images may still have all the qualites of a beautiful photograph, the perfect Flickr algorythm, but they have lost their luster to those that know. Sacrilege! You can picture in your mind the owners of the artist’s prints upon hearing of this fiasco rushing to check the ones they have on the wall were unaltered “real” photographs. It brings a smile to my lips..

The episode does raise more questions about the ability to use photography for portrayal of “reality”. I say “more” because photography has been used to selectively manipulate opinion since day one. I suppose I am a bit of a cynic when it concerns the business that is the art world (art or Art?).  “Legalized money laundry tis all it tis”, I can hear the wizened old guy say as he spits from his creaky rocking chair to the dusty road beside him, some of it landing on the edge of the porch, spittle clinging to his beard like morning dew..

The bricks of the Yellow Brick Road were not paved in gold, they were just painted yellow, and at the end of the road the Wizard of Oz turned out to be a just a man after all.

Best!

Jordi

shibuya

3F 7F 6F, cranny in Shibuya. Leica 3f / Summitar 5cm.

This image has only been adjusted slightly for contrast/exposure level and contains everything and nothing more (except pershaps some dust from the scanner that I missed..) that was in the camera’s viewfinder at the time of pressing the shutter;-)

No Clothes?

I came across this interesting article by Michael Sweet on the Huffington Post the other day regarding the current “street photography” culture.  He talks about how banal much of the photography is, and why all this bad photography exists.  It’s very good. It got me thinking about the internet photo community in general so I thought I would add some comments.

While in the States a few months ago I came across some prowling the streets, cameras strapped to hand with their pro-sniper straps, somewhat reminiscent of hunters (I actually came across a website that called itself Street Hunter..).  Their appearance as well as subject interaction looked different from footage I have seen of greats like Henri Cartier-Bresson or Gary Winogrand in action on the streets for example. As an aside, in appearance Gary Winogrand looked to me a bit more a like a nice old fisherman whereas these guys were a bit more like some special forces tactical unit in appearance.

Just because you can does it mean that you should?

Digital technology has made it possible to effortlessly take a photo that is perfect, at least in the technical sense of exposure and focus, and with a couple clicks in photoshop and boom, you have a photo that is nowadays commonly called “dope,” or “sick”. A couple more clicks and it can be online in a multitude of places ready for the reassuring clicks of approval from multitudes of friends and followers. It’s easier than ever to get the gear, a website, upload it, and join the millions of others doing the exact same thing.

1.8 billion per year and growing- for what?

The accessibility of photography both in a technical as well as economic sense has led to unprecedented popularity.  True, Kodak revolutionized photography a century ago by bringing cheap mass produced cameras to the average person, but hardly anyone saw the resulting photos.  The sheer volume of photographs ever accumulating online today is mind boggling.  The amount of photos shared online has apparently tripled just between 2013 and 2014 from 500 million to 1.8 billion according to one report.  Currently according to Flickr 8,600,000 photos are uploaded everyday!  Is it information overload? Maybe we are coming full circle since most of these photos today are not really seen either.  Even Flickr for example is selecting photographs to showcase on their own site based on “interestingness” algorithms. 

What is “good” or “art”- maybe best to leave that up to the algorithm?

Maybe in the future megapixels and memory will be such that we can just video with our camera and then an algorithm will help us select a number of the best shots from that day’s “photoshoot”.  We could even just attach it to our head and leave it on all day and night and let the computer due the work automatically overnight and when we wake up in the morning the photos will already be posted and some even will have received some likes and clicks from other computers based on algorithms and hopefully already selected by algorithms to showcase.. If there isn’t a scifi book about it already there should be.

What is “art”, “fine art”, and “good” or a “beautiful” photograph is a prickly subject(ive) of course (made all the more difficult by our own inability to define these terms). I’ll best stay away from this but if you get a chance I recommend the John Berger film on Youtube, Ways of Seeing for some interesting discussion about this.

Conformity of cliches

When I look at photo sites I see many photographs that are almost indistinguishable between different photographers.  It’s almost as if they could be computer generated algorithms. There’s the obligatory dock running out into the lake, the sparkly sunset with the tree, the long exposure creek or waterfall, and other cliches.  I wonder if they went to the same photography school.

What is real?

In Zen Buddhism there is a term Buddha Nature. It is in all things but most people cannot see it until they are able to understand themselves. A zen monk who lived in the 14th century called Bassui said, seeing ones own nature is buddhahood. I will call this nature truth.  I think real photographs capture truth. Why am I wandering around taking pictures? It is not simply because I like a pretty picture that looks like it belongs in a calendar. And anyway if that is all I wanted there are billions of “pretty” pictures online so that I don’t need to go out and make my own.  I think it is because I am searching for answers to bigger questions about this world as well as about myself.

Well, ok, now with all that said, I can say for me it is my goal to take “real” photographs and continuously improve my eye and my technique. But above all I will enjoy myself.

With that I will leave you with a photo of an empty cat food dish and a shadow I found in Chiba.  Is it really empty?? Haha!

Do not be misled! Look directly!  What is this? – Bassui

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