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Thursday, 13 December 2007


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I love the profound wisdom of Walker Evans when asked in an interview, "do photographs ever lie?"
His answer: "Photographs ALWAYS lie."

While photographs may not lie, liars may photograph.

-- -Lewis Hine

A fitting close to a fascinating conversation that has begun to remind me of some late night freshman debate over too many beers - when all of a sudden you realize it's time to get to bed and in the morning you feel you decided some important intellectual matters last night - you just can't remember what they were but, damn, you're sure you were brilliant.


His answer: "Photographs ALWAYS lie."

Exactly. I guess for me the question finally comes down to the issue of whether the lie helps me and maybe others see/feel/understand better, or if it makes us feel cheated and dirty and cheap.

Just yesterday a web client sent me a photo of one of her members for me to put a thumbnail up as a link. It was a "fine art photographer's" shot of fall colors in Vermont, with the saturation slider pushed past the right edge of the screen. Yuck. That's not helping.

"That's just the way it is. This is nothing that digital photographers need to have a chip on their shoulders about, but neither does having such a chip on one's shoulder change anything. Our newfound digital freedom gives us a lot—an awful lot—but it also taketh away; and I think it's wise to be aware of that."


I think it's wise to be aware that,it is here to stay, everything has changed, in my opinion for the better.

"but it also taketh away" taketh away what?
I miss the loupe and light box, no... (1944)
Digital has ADDED a new dimension to PHOTOGRAPHY and ART. not taketh away.

Yes, please get off this topic and move on to more PHOTOGRAPHY.

Thanks Mike, keep the good stuff coming.

> people who are not interested in the topic must be getting bored by now

It's not just me then? I can't even begin to read any of the preceding posts, let alone feign an interest. Take the photo, don't take the photo, run it through the "fake watercolour/HCB/gorilla filter" or not, I JUST DON'T CARE. Perhaps I should. Oh well. Just another week in the life of TOP, I guess. Fingers crossed for a more interesting upcoming week.

[Mike wrote]...the only thing that is interesting about many photographs, or what is most interesting about them, is the evidence they give of something that actually was...[/Mike wrote]

Wherein we recognize a difference in the way we view "photographs" from other "art" forms. The concept that what is represented is evidence "of something that actually was" might not apply, or even be assumed, in other fields of artistic pursuit.

It's interesting to me that we consider starting from the assumption that a "photograph" is real. Then observe how we might approach a painting or sculpture. Do we approach these from the same points of view (emotionally or intellectually)?

Further, talking of "photography" in this manner not only makes it somehow different than, it appears to take an intellectual justification for it's very existence.

Witness the back-lash against "anti-intellectualism" in a previous subject thread. Now consider, do we as humans approach and respond to various art-forms with our hearts? Or do we intellectualize our response? Why would/should photography be any different?

Why should you think hugging your wife is any different than hugging your dog? Because it IS different, that's why. Photography is not just another means of making art, along with all the other means. First of all, precious little photography--what, .0001%?--even ASPIRES to the status of art, and a much smaller percentage achieves it. And of that which does succeed, a fair percentage of it succeeds because it exploits the nature of the medium, and because its practitioners understand the nature of the medium they're working in.

Mike J.


Lots of thoughtiness required here of late, so some thoughts.

I, personally wouldn't be bothered if "Moonrise" was a composite of multiple negatives, done to acheive the dynamic range. It's a wonderful image. I also wouldn't mind if it was a composite done for no other reason than to have a laugh on the folks analyzing it to find out what day and time it was. I don't think those "facts" have relevance to the image.

Mr. Bedfords essay seems to state that increased technical knowledge about the "image", and how it was produced, would improve the discourse about the "art". I'm confused by that, as I can't think of an instance in painting where the knowledge of what brand of paint was used would help my appreciation. In fact, the technical aspects seem only of interest because I am a painter, and in that capacity, not as a viewer. I respond the same to photographs, or whatever the decision was to call them.

Now, obviously I don't mind digital manipulations; at the same time I find infrared Photos "irritating"; as moving water rendered as a smooth silkiness causes a part of my brain to cringe.

One of the curiosities of the "horrid photoshopped manipulations" is that they seem to have been exposed.

The author may state that their work is true and honest, and swear on a stack of journalistic ethics manifestos, that he or she is an honest practitioner; I will think they protest to much.

Well, nice posts and comments; they sometimes confuse, but mostly some clarity comes of it, as to how to approach my own art and craft.


Your analogy works for me, but only to a point. The lines between any of this have become so blurred, how can anyone say "photographs" are about expressing "reality" or "what was"? In selling palladium as well as inkjet prints alongside water-color artists and sculptures, I have come to the strong feeling that such nuances only matter to the creator(s), and not the buying/viewing public.

To turn your analogy back on you - witness an interesting fact. I may feel differently about hugging my wife over a pet, but many Americans might not. Why would I ever say such a crazy thing? More money is spent on pets in the US than on health care for children. So who gets more hugs? Children? or pets? The human need for hugs hasn't changed, has it?

"Digital has ADDED a new dimension to PHOTOGRAPHY and ART. not taketh away."

Actually, both are correct. The gate swings both ways, as it always has. There is no free lunch.

As if on cue: Errol Morris this week addresses responses to his essays on documentary photography. I found "Reply to comment No. 25, 'Hooded Man.' The claim that language can breed error — just like photographs" especially enlightening.


For me, Mike's point here is obvious and irrefutable. At times like this, I wish all respondents who claim "it doesn't matter" would do so in a venue where their dozen "best ever" prints were mounted and framed on a wall behind them. We could then point to things that are 99% clearly "true" about the content of each image, then claim that they were faked. Then tell me that you don't care that we discredited your photographic eye.

. . . or does a photographic eye have no value?

Excluding photojournalistic images that are required to meet ethical standards set by most respected news purveyors, I believe a photographer has the right to artistic freedom as to how he or she presents an image in print forum.

The image is the thing. As is often stated, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

Mike digital photographers don't have a chip on their shoulders...its in their cameras.

A few nights ago at the photo club we were discussing a picture I took:


The bird in this picture, we all agreed, used to be the icing on the cake. But in 2007, alas, it is no longer; everybody realizes how easy it is to fake the odd bird. They believed me when I said it was the real deal and liked the picture anyway, but most also regretted the loss of the spontaneous smile when seeing a thing like that in a picture…
Anyway, I enjoyed the discussions this last week, thanks.

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