There are two kinds of photography. One, where you intend to show what something looks like exactly, and the other – which is art. Art has no rules. But I strongly feel the art of photography should be limited to the piece of art that you produce through your lens and through the photoshop software tools. While it’s clear that photo-manipulation in photojournalism or field where you claim the originality of the photographs is strictly unethical, how ethical is it for photography as an art form?
With the fast changing world of technology, the definition of photography is changing. Earlier, photography used to be about the ability or rather skill of capturing the moment from the right angle at the right time. But now with the upcoming tools and software, photographers don’t understand the struggle that goes in taking a note-worthy photo, they don’t take much efforts to click the best shot. A mediocre level photo is transferred to their computers where all the editing i.e. what we call nowadays, the “post-production magic” begins and the picture is turned into an excellent piece of “art”. The art of photography needs to be practiced and perfected over time.
What is Photography?
According to me, photography is an art of capturing the extraordinary from the ordinary. It shows us what the eyes can’t see. We often forget to see the beauty in simple things that are around us. And the camera gives us those eyes to see that perspective of the world. The way a photographer sees the world, the bird, the building or even a glass of water on the table, hardly any ordinary working human can see in day-to-day life.
Having said that, don’t you feel that now the photography skills is being dominated by photo-editing skills? Of course, there are some shots that the camera cannot capture the way a human eye can see, and thus it becomes necessary to put our hands on some editing tools to get the right light level or exposure for the picture. For example, when you see the moon at the night and when you try clicking a picture of it, there are two contrasting images that are formed by the camera and what it actually looks like. In such a scenario, photo editing comes to play. And it’s necessary too. But with the constant and rather excessive use of these editing tools, don’t you think that we are taking our audience far from the reality? Not every hilltop looks as beautiful as they show in their photographs. These highly edited pictures create unrealistic expectations from the world.
The job of the photographer is to bring the essence of the scene through his camera and not through his editing skills. A certain amount of “retouching” is acceptable to make the picture look alive but easy access to these extensive resources for photo manipulation, we are actually abusing this tool and therefore subverting the whole point of it in the first place? If this is the case, then we should appreciate their photoshop skills and not essentially your photography skills. Let’s look at some of the different kinds of photography:
In Landscape photography too, Instagram is filled with such unrealistic representation of tourist spots that ultimately disappoint those people when they actually visit that place. Minor burning, dodging or color correction is acceptable just like cropping is. But no one wants to see the high dynamic range images (HDR) and stitched panoramas. What is it exactly? Is our earth not beautiful enough to give you some amazing shots? Or is it that photographers have become lazy to go out of their way to get that one breath-taking shot?
This idea of absolute flawlessness is driving the society insane. The mainstream photography that takes place in advertising mostly is manipulating images to achieve an idealistic and ultimately unrealistic picture of beauty in the world of glamor. Artists constantly work on the facial features or their body shape and their wrinkles or dark spots are almost non-existential. This only creates a false sense of reality among the people. Also, one dangerous consequence of editing can be seen when it is done at a basic level by the young generation on Instagram and smartphone cameras. The false sense of perception of their own appearance might chance and they won’t be able to deal with their true selves every time they look in the mirror. Even though they are much prettier than many out there.
While editing a picture of a photo item might sound completely absurd just a few years back, it has completely taken over the internet in today’s world. Food artist uses a list of different tricks to make the look for appetizing. A variety of substances in the food is added that the chef will ever use himself, to change the appearance of the dish and get the best click in a short span of time. It’s ironic how this could have been a legal concern for the consumers if photo-trickery took place with other commodities like clothing, home furniture or devices which are secondary needs of people while food is the basic and primary need for any human being.
Improbability: A different perspective
Giuseppe Colarusso, an Italian photographer has come up with this concept of photography which justifies the idea of photo-manipulation to some extent. ‘Improbabilita’ is a series of photographs depicting those photographic realizations of situations that are “unlikely but not impossible”. While his idea might be different from our subject of concern right now, the definition of Improbability is itself thought-provoking. What if the photo-manipulation tools are used just to portray the images that are not possible for us to see that easily. It’s unlikely to take place but such a moment is not impossible. In such a scenario, we can say that photo-manipulation got a new definition of art but it definitely doesn’t justify photography as an art. This can get photo editing some recognition but Photography as an art still remains a question mark.
Photography is about capturing an idea. And honestly, finding the place is simpler than creating the place because you don’t have to scratch your head to come up with ideas. Also, while people are trying to incorporate photo editing into the art of photography itself, I feel they are two different set of skills that should not be mixed. Editing should help enhance a photo, the photograph shouldn’t depend on the editing to look great. If that’s the case, then it’s high time we reflect upon our ideas on the art of photography.