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We’ve been buried with over 30″ of snow here in the Hudson Valley, as well as power and Internet outages, so I’m just getting back online and away from the shovel! I also had to cancel the Printing Workshop that was scheduled for today, but hopefully I can re-schedule asap to make sure all registered students are available for the new date.

Now to the title of the post, I came across an interesting article by David Pogue of the NY Times titled “Photoshop and Photography; When Is It Real?” which examines when a photograph crosses the line between “real” and “artificial”. This is an issue that is not new to photographers and I’ve discussed it here several times, most notably in an article about digital manipulation.

Pogue suggests we ask instead “what is reality”, a question I have always thought about in my own photography.  I’ve always felt strongly that this issue of “reality” is both subjective and an integral part of the creative process for a landscape photographer. We each see, experience, interpret, and “feel” differently about reality, and it only makes sense that would make each of our images unique and different. Whether we allow ourselves to go “too far” with technology in our zeal to interpret our feelings is another mater entirely, and certainly becomes a part of a photographer’s credibility and style.

You can only ascertain this by looking at a photographer’s body of work, and not just a single image. Only then can you begin to make judgments about what a photographer values both in terms of his feelings about his subject matter, and how he chooses to convey those feelings. As for my own personal work, capturing moments that elicit the most dramatic and strongest emotional responses, and the challenge of achieving that, are central to both my motivation and reason for being in and around nature. Perhaps that isn’t ordinary reality, but it certainly is real for me, especially when it captures my eye and heart in a way that is forever special. I hope that we do not lose the essence of what photography is about, and instead focus all of our attention on the medium instead of the message.

Let me know what your thoughts are about “reality”? Do you think I am missing something?

RR Jr

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This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. After reading the NY Times article, I have to think of the damage done to young women who believe the models seen in magazines and catalogs are “real,” when in actuality the photos have been altered to fit the “reality” of the fashion industry. These very real young women then try to become what they have been taught is “real,” but which is in reality a fantasy; often to the detriment of their physical and mental health.

    When it comes to landscapes, I believe it’s possible to process a realistic photo so it changes to photo or digital art. Often, such a photo looks artificial, or the processor added or subtracted objects or elements. In my opinion, that would not qualify as a capture of a real moment, which is how I interpret a “real” photograph.

    If you capture a sunset, and process so the colors and brightness express what you saw, that would be a ‘real’ photo. If you capture a sunset, and later add a flock of geese ‘for interest,’ that’s not what you saw in the moment. That photo then becomes ‘digital art.’ I think there is a difference between trying to share a moment in nature, along with all the emotion involved; and manipulating a scene to present something that was never really there except in one’s imagination. Just my opinion.

    1. All good points, and I agree that adding elements that were not in the original capture certainly makes an image “digital art”. I would suggest however, that a successful photograph, and one that I would still qualify as “real”, encompasses what the photographer both felt and saw. Conveying ones emotions about a scene is so very important, as Ansel Adams repeated so frequently.

      Thanks for your insightful thoughts!
      RR

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