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Old Nov 17, 2004, 11:58 AM   #11
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Recently a graphic artist I know designed a simple 2-color booklet for a client. The client requested a photograph on the cover. The designer selected a black and white photograph and converted it to a fake duotone (the photo prints as a halftone in blue ink over a block of yellow ink). The client kept asking questions about the photo, such as, “IS THIS A REAL PHOTOGRAPH? Is this what it will look like when it is printed?” The designer explained that the laser proof was a close representation of what it will look like, but because a desktop laser printer doesn’t use Pantone inks, it is not exact. What the client was finally able to verbalize is that she wants a COLOR photograph on the cover. To her, that is the definition of a “real photograph.” The designer exclaimed, “Ansel Adams is rolling over in his grave right now!” Then he told her that he can incorporate a color photo, but because it has to be printed with process inks (and now we're talking 6 different inks for the whole job instead of 2), it is going to cost her more.
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Old Nov 17, 2004, 12:06 PM   #12
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Meryl Arbing wrote:
...Most people, in everyday life, have the same expectation that a photo that they see is also a 'true representation' of the real scene or the person or the event.

However, there are situations where that is NOT the expectation. We don't necessarily expect that advertising photos are exactly as they came from the camera, and photos of obviously fantastic things (like winged purple elephants buzzing the Golden Gate Bridge) are self explanatory and produce no confusion in the viewer.

This may be true, but I would suggest that there are more situations in which the photographer (or "image artist") would not tell the viewer that there has been manipulation but yet some exists. Meryl described advertisements, but most of the world of commercial photography falls into the category of "surrealism" (if I can use that term in a non-artistic sense). Certainly, Ms. January has been retouched significantly, and maybe you've heard of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit photographer who uses a disposeable camera to shoot his subjects because he knows they'll be Photoshoped to death when the prints get back to the publisher. And almost all of us have taken pictures (or had them taken) where we've retouched portrait blemishes, saturated eye color, etc. But I don't think the Glamor Shots picture of my mom isn't a photo of her.

The question, therefore, is whether we value the skills of (1) finding a good subject with good light (2) manipulating the mechanical instrumentalities of the camera to capture the image in a most pleasing manner and (3) developing the image (either from bits or from a negative) onto a finished product OR we value the skills of (1) creating composition, (2) artistic presentation, and (3) overall effect. When you look at an art "photo" -- you're looking at the art, not necesarily the process. And it can take just as much skill to properly post-process an image as it does to manipulate the mechanisms of a camera. And many of the manipulations, as one person above noted, could/would be done in the darkroom. And, in most circumstances, you wouldn't call a photo a photo just because you used a more selective developing process or you used other chemicals or tools to change sharpness or color temperature. Thus, I don't believe that an artist who does digital manipulation has an ethical responsibilty to affirmatively inform the viewer that digital manipulation has been done: You don't have to call your composition "Two trees from two different places" or "Northern sky scene with moon added."

Of course, I don't think you can lie about it, either. I've seen more and more "artist's statements" at art shows and the like that describe their process to prospective buyers, so the buyers can be aware, for example,whether the artist has gone around the world to find the perfect shot or created the shot from various locations-- let the buyer have her own value judgment. (There is a different calculus, I believe, for professionals who make a living through selling images and us amateurs who just like to have nice pictures on our wall and a sense of accomplishement of making something beautiful.)

Of course, if the value calculus is "preset for you" -- i.e. you're taking police photos and a court case is hinged on the "true representation" ofa scene, or a photo contest decides that mechanical manipulation must be a consideration -- then of course it's unethical to mask out flaws, or do any drastic (or perhaps ANY) light, sharpness, color, or other manipulation. But with the caveat regarding an artist's affirmative obligation to tell her viewer all of the post-process manipulations in most circumstances, I join in the opinions of those above. Go ahead, take two pictures of two trees, a picture of a nice background, and put them together. Take out that pesky lightpole, remove the lens flare from the shot (or add one). Let your art be. Just don't testify to its accuracy in court, tell your friend "yup, I did that all with my FunSaver35," or enter it in a photo competition where the rules prohibit digital manipulation.

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Old Nov 17, 2004, 1:56 PM   #13
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I can't see why somebody with nothing to hide would object to telling people how the image was created. I mean, using Photoshop isn't without some degree of skill so why not let people know and admire the skill that you used.

One of the interesting things about imaging (as opposed to photography) is that the digital imager doesn't need to own or use a camera at all! :OThey can just as easily take any of the hundreds of thousands of stock images avaialbe on CD collections (or stolen from other people's gallerys) and use that as the basis for their 'creations'.

The process of digital alteration is the same whether the photograph came from that person's camera or not. I once confrionted a guy who was obviously using somebody else's shot for his own 'creativity'. I asked him if he had taken the shot himself. He said "Yes, I took it from here!" and proceeded to give me the URL of the gallery where he had copied the image from. He, personally,didn't own a camera! :?

I'll give one more example. Say I take a shot with my camera. It is clearly my personal work. Say I use filters in Photoshop (or any other photoediting program) and change that photograph into a simulated 'watercolor' painting. It is still my photograph and it is still my artistic decision to apply that effect in post processing.

Suppose thenI take the "watercolor" image and print it with my Epson Photostylus inkjet on actual Watercolor paper (which I legitimately bought for the printer). Everything is still 100% my own work.

I take the image printed on watercolor paper (with inks that are probably not that much different from actual water color paints) and I mount it in a frame like an actual watercolor painting. It is still 100% my own work!

Can I then enter that image in a contest for watercolor paintings competing against people who used a brush and paints while I used a computer? :?I have demonstrated no painting skills whatsoever and yet my work looks exactly like an original watercolor.

Is that ethical? I don't think so.

In the same way, would it be ethical to enter a manipulated image in a photo contest where the other entrants have not used any manipulation? I don't think that it would be ethical in this case either!

Those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear from honesty and it will strengthen the integrity of phtography as a whole if we were all up-front about how we achieved our images. :|

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