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Friday, 24 February 2023


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What’s your take on dodging and burning in the darkroom (or the digital equivalent, linear or circular gradient)? I know of some famous images that were heavily dodged & burned, for example that one of St Paul’s appearing through the heavy dark smoke during the London blitz. Is that still ‘real’?

I believe photography allows for a bit more headroom than merely "to accurately report what was in front of the camera," because, a) the camera (and photo-technology in general) isn't always up to scratch, and b) the photographer might not agree that the camera's report is so accurate WRT what they actually saw with their own eyes, and felt about it.

Photography captures surfaces. Fine, that's what it does. But, but ... some photographers of the non-documentary persuasion may aim to 'capture' something else, something in addition that the camera can't (or didn't) capture. That is where assorted post-capture manipulations come in -- dodging-and-burning, color balance, montage, and even collage techniques.

I draw the line at source material. Does the photographer use their own, exclusively?

No? Then I'm out: this isn't photography, it's something else.

AI (as we understand it) is surrendering creative control, and authorship, to a proverbial black box, one that mixes up all sorts of purloined/plagiarized material to satisfy vague and cryptic 'prompts'. "Prompt Engineer" is a very apt title for such a role.

There have always been artists and wannabes that have done this sort of thing, rather more laboriously in the past, and now there are going to be a whole lot more, since any moron with a web browser and minimal language skills can avail themselves of this new 'tool.'

Caveat emptor is about all one can say.

I quite like film...

Don't confuse the tools with the art. I think your main complaint is that fancier tools can hide incompetent or banal work. That's the most common use, but...
Frank Zappa, the greatest American composer, used the finest musicians that he could find, often to destruction. (ref "The Black Page") He later moved to using complex synthesizers using recorded musicians because he couldn't find a human to play a 1/32 rest properly... Trust real artists to find a proper use for new toys. Even Holgas. However, these new tools/toys produce crap WAY faster, so dig deep for anything good.

Please add this into my last: Ruth Underwood playing the Black Page on piano - it's the cleanest version. I didn't know this was on Youtube.

As an adjunct to my earlier comment, we still have to contend with things like this. Different kind of untruth


And of course we have the old problem of the specious title

Time to file out those negative carriers to make those thin black borders around the Tri-X negatives again!

I grew up when a photojournalist could take a photo that could take down a corrupt politician or prove liability against some corporation breaking some environmental or safety regulation.

Then in 1994, I saw the beginning of the end of that. I saw Tom Hanks shaking hand with JFK and LBJ in "Forest Gump". The cutting edge technology from that film has been so over taken by the fakery that many 15 year olds can do now. Nothing can be assumed to be real anymore.

I pitty the person that gets the first actual true photo of an alien exiting their spacecraft in a field. The din of the cries, "Fake!" Will drown out the prestige of getting that shot.

As with all synthetic goods, they should always be disclosed from the start. That said I’m OK with AI photography, but I’m not OK with the deceit.

This stunt pulled by the “photographer” smacks of those awful Folgers TV ads where people were secretly served instant coffee instead of their restaurant’s usual offering. Hey, they couldn’t tell the difference; don’t they just look like idiots? Now buy our coffee!

Mike wrote, "Photographs are only beautiful insofar as they are true."

True two dimension black and white still representations of a three-dimension world of color and motion and sound?

[And the 26 characters of the alphabet arranged in multitudinous sequences between spaces, in black, on a white sheet of paper? Can that not be true or false? What do such things have to do with dimensions and motions? --Mike]

Interesting to contemplate that "the era in which the aim [of photography] was to accurately report what was in front of the camera" didn't begin in earnest until photography had been around for almost a century, at least to my knowledge. Which isn't to say that photography hadn't been relied on for documentary purposes before then, but that it wasn't until around the 1920s and 30s that the documentary nature of photography became its most appreciated characteristic, both socially and aesthetically (especially aesthetically). Which is also not to say that the illusory delights and depredations of the medium went away or stopped being appreciated or exploited. On the contrary, the more photography is accepted as a "documentary" medium, the more powerful its illusions and deceptions.

Painting, too, took a good long time to reach the stage where it was primarily valued as a visual record of reality (often to document and display one's material wealth or status).

But yes, that golden era of photography seems to be "ending"--or continues to end, though I think it's more accurate to say that the pendulum is swinging back toward the other of photography's dual natures.

I grew up a minority, my tastes veer to the minority, so if "true" photography continues to sidestep unto the curb of current/future photography, I welcome the... evolution. Besides, 'styles' always dissipate and rebound- I've been noticing more women in bell bottoms and flairs of late...

Hi Mike,
I appreciate the point your are trying to make, although I dare say that you have set the cat amongst the pigeons with the statement that photographs are true. ‘True’ can be a very subject term.

To put it simply, for me the allure of photography is the potential for realism - for realistic looking images. And that’s about as far as it goes, given it is possible to create impressionistic and unreal looking images, without editing software or darkroom techniques. I doubt photography has ever had some kind of golden age of truth, be it the early pictoralists, or fairies at the bottom of the garden.

To address the point you are driving at, I’d say it’s now possible for artists to use technology to create realistic-looking images, that were once the domain of photography, and possibly artists that specialise in hyper-realistic paintings.

From a live-and-let-live perspective, I’d say there’s room for all. But then we disappear down the rabbit hole of disclosure about how the final image was created/generated.

Or, we look at the final image on its artistic merits (howsoever defined), and ignore how it was produced. This means acknowledging that photography is no longer the primary means for generating realistic looking images. The tools and technology progress.

I’ll still have fun shooting with my DSLR and making images I enjoy, regardless.

You said that “Photography is moving farther and farther away from the era in which the aim was to accurately report what wis in front of the camera, and increasingly occupying territory that was previously the domain of art.”. I think that’s wrong because I think it misrepresents what the domain of art is.

If we look at the history of art we see painters and sketchers starting by trying to paint, draw or sculpt what they saw with their eyes o painting, drawing, and sculpting what they visualised or imagined. The visual arts began as crafts which were representational and over time artists started creating works which were less representational and more expressionistic and then moved into abstraction but all of those styles are still pursued today in the visual arts. The “domain of art” to which you refer has been changing and developing since the first person made scratches in sand or dirt with their finger or a stick and tried to create an image of something they had seen. There’s a saying that “you have to learn to walk before you can run”. In the visual arts it seems that you have to be able to create results that show what you actually see in front of you before you can create results which show how you personally “see” what’s in front of you and you have to be able to do that before you can start to create results which show something you imagine rather than see in front of you..

In the first days of photography it wasn’t possible to produce photographs that didn’t show what was in front of the camera but with the advent of modern film media and the darkroom techniques that went with film that became increasingly possible and photographers started to learn how to explore and exploit those possibilities. Ansel Adams famously spoke about how he “pre-visualised” his photographs, an implicit recognition that the end result would not be quite true to what was in front of his camera and he used the tools and techniques available to him in order to create prints that represented his pre-visualisation rather than accurately rendering what was actually captured on the negative. He obviously wasn’t averse to post-visualisation because his later prints of many of his early negatives diverged strongly from his first prints of those negatives and he used the metaphors of a musical score to describe the negative and a musical performance to describe the print. If “Photographs are only beautiful insofar as they are true’ and Adams’ photographs are beautiful, then what are they true to?

Adams’ photos aren’t completely true to what he saw before him or to his negatives and over time they became less true to the pre-visualisation he had when he took the photograph. What they remain true to was his intent when he made the print but I don’t think that’s what makes them beautiful. Images which are true to the photographer’s intent aren’t always beautiful. Nick Ut’s photograph of Phan Ti Kim Phuc screaming in pain as she flees from a napalm bombing is undoubtedly a “true” photograph in every sense of the world, it’s an incredibly moving photograph, but it is not a beautiful photograph and I doubt Nick Ut ever intended it to be beautiful. Truth and beauty are not related.

Whether or not the AI images you referred to are beautiful depends on who is making the judgement. What isn’t at question is the fact that they aren’t photographs or the fact that their creator essentially committed a fraud by trying to pass them off as photographs. Photography has nothing to fear from AI image creation technology, just as documentary photography has nothing to fear from landscape photography or fashion photography or even the surrealistic photographs of Jerry Uelsmann which I regard as photographs as much as I regard the photographs of Ansel Adams. Uelsmann used the same tools of camera, lens, negative and darkroom techniques as Adams in order to produce genuine photographic prints, he just used a few more negatives and some darkroom techniques Adams did not use in order to produce his prints. We don’t question the use of double exposure as a legitimate photographic technique and what Uelsmann did is akin in one admittedly minor way to double exposure on steroids.

There are painters who have deliberately produced paintings which look like photographs and there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s a legitimate way a painter can choose to represent a scene but those painters never thought of their finished result as a photograph, they regarded it as exactly what it was, a painting. For the same reason there’s nothing wrong with someone using AI software to produce an image which looks like a photograph but anyone who does that and who thinks they are creating a photograph is deluding themself and it they try to convince anyone else that what they have created is a photography then they’re deceiving the person they’re trying to convince.

Some artists stick to one medium all their life. Others start in one medium and move to another, Both Saul Leiter and Henri Cartier-Bresson started in painting and moved to photography. Leiter continued painting while working as a photographer and Cartier-Bresson returned to sketching and painting after retiring as a photographer. We’ll see some photographers move from photography to creating images with AI and AI artists who move to photography. And then there’s the consumers of those arts. I’m a photographer albeit an amateur rather than professional photographer. I’ve got a lot of images framed on my walls at home ranging from 19th century Japanese woodblocks to etchings, lithographs and paintings but I’ve only got one photograph on my wall and it isn’t one of mine. A new visual art medium isn’t something that threatens any other visual art medium. You can produce art in any visual medium you like and you can enjoy and appreciate more than one visual art form even if you work in another. All of them can be true to something and not every artist working in a particular art form is true to the same thing and the value of a particular work isn’t dependent solely on whether it is true to one particular standard or another or whether it is beautiful, it depends solely on whether it moves its viewers in some way or another.

There is no problem with AI but I won’t be pursuing it. Neither will most people who currently take photographs or paint or draw. As for the consumer, they’ll continue to buy works that speak to them and private and public art collections will continue to be eclectic and contain works from more than one art form. The only thing that’s going to change is that more and more art forms are going to be invented because that’s something people have been doing for centuries and there’s no reason to believe that they’re going to stop at the art forms we already have.

Photography in its basic form is documentation. Using a camera to capture an image spotted by the human eye. The term art in relation to the above was the ability of the photographer to frame and interpret this image into a pleasing final form. I cannot identify the originator of this quote but it stated if something is worth looking at it is worth photographing. It is all we really need to do.

As I wrote a number of years ago in my (unfortunately unpublished) article . . .but don't call it Photography,"those who alter and/or combine photographs (or create imitation photos) are limited by their imaginations. They can only do what they can conceive. But photography goes beyond human imagination. As novelist Tom Clancy has said, “The difference between fiction and non-fiction is that fiction has to make sense.” The magic of photography is that life holds so many amazing and wonderful things that are entirely unanticipated, unexpected, even unimagined in the deepest sense; that is -- no one would ever have thought of such a thing happening. And then, suddenly, right out of the fabric of life, there it is. "I can do a beautiful illustration, but it doesn't have that 'instant of wonder' that a photograph will have." (Art Director Tony Anthony, quoted in "Photo District News," February, 1987.) Photography shows us things that lie beyond our imagination and compel our amazement because they really happened. It revels in the beauty, the mystery, and the strangeness of life. It is the most powerful purely visual medium ever created."

This is the appeal of instant film. The prints are a true record* of what happened at the point of exposure**

* as rendered by the lens and emulsion
** unless the image is then scanned and photoshopped

Yes, words on a page can be true or false. Or fiction. Art can communicated via many media. Why rule out photography? A beautiful photograph of something created can speak truth as much as a powerful documentary photograph. And anyway, "if I could paint or write I wouldn't be a photographer"

Mike, I agree with your premise. Many problems, both legal and social, arise when photographs are manipulated to be false yet appear to be accurate representations of some "truth". That's fraud when in a legal context. By 2018, fraudulent photographic evidence was becoming a problem. With recent AI software, it's become a much more serious one.

I have no problem at all with obviously manipulated digital art that's presented as art rather than reality - digital art doesn't fraudulently purport to be an accurate representation of some reality or other.

Now this blog post should get some comments!
Perhaps doing something totally fake and not identifying it as such is questionable, but it's like lying; is a "little white lie" all that different from a total falsehood?

Think about it.
Film takes an image in the style of the film. Exposure can change the image. Developing and printing adds options in how the image comes out.
Digital sensors use tricks to convert monochrome intensity levels to color, then processing from raw data modifies the image as it is converted to something the eye can see on a monitor which adds its modifications.
Hey, my eye and your eye even see differently.
So what exactly is "true"?

Seems I remember discussions here on how certain digital representations of voice and music were criticized for not sounding "natural" too. What's natural? And are synthisizers not creating music? What about all music instruments?

PS: If I can get permission I will post a sample from a guy I know creating video that looks totally real using all CGI and avatars. On his home computer.

Nothing wrong with using the computer per se, but I'd say one is missing out - simply, short-changed - by what "paint" gives you as opposed to paint, by what "brush" does as opposed to brush. Similarly with "lens blur" / "defocus" as opposed to the ineluctable real thing.

Then again, maybe this is just the latest round in "Pictorialists vs straight photography".

The questions of copyright and authorship aside, it seems that the gap between photography in more Pictorialist influenced genres and painting is closing a little bit more with AI.

As somebody who found very little use in retouching besides removing sensor dirt, I could not care less if ugly "montages" are done without actually using a camera now, but with AI. Many people probably used stock photos for that purpose even before AI anyway.

Compensating the photographers whose photos were fed into AI training fairly will be a huge job. Unless this happens, the stock photography market will probably be very dead in a few years.

Absolute truth exists. It cannot 'not' exist.
But all beings that perceive, as a subject/object relationship, can only ever know relative truth.

Having truth as an aspiration is the best we can hope for. Unobtainable, certainly. But by setting our rudders to its compass and trimming our sails to match its course, we at least fare better than the alternative - to simply ignore its existence.

All that, without my morning coffee. Well done me :-)

FWIW I tend to agree with you Mike, as well as John Camp in his The Ort of Photography essay. I think photography plays to its strength when it documents the world.

[I was going to say John Camp’s essay was from “a couple years ago” but I see it was posted in 2011. Yikes!!]

"I'm not an actor, I'm a movie star!"

Yeah, and Auto-Tune is no longer a bug, it's a feature.

I think establishing “truth” in photography could be a very precarious position. There’s just too many variations of it. Maybe, on a somewhat simple level, we could redefine photographers as two groups, image recorders and image creators. At least that might help define the points of departure. The forward moving train of technology will always leave some people at different stations when and where they choose to get off. AI could easily be seen as the devil incarnate of photography, or possibly the brave new world that changes all before it.

Bought the book! The Instagram stuff is interesting. The deception is one side of the story, but ignoring that and looking at the pictures, they are quite good. Although if you look at the sequence rapidly, there is something a bit unnerving about the eyes. Did the AI get trained on photos of psychopaths?

I must try these AI programs on my favourite genres, see if they can provide some hints and tips on improving my own work.

Photographs can be beautiful, but they are only an interpretation of the truth. A lot can be lost in the translation.

In the field of audio, have you thought of telling “Old Neil” that the sound of his guitar isn’t real?


I agree with you completely - my interest in photography really grew out of my high school and university days involved in newspaper journalism, and good photojournalism was my first aspiration.

Being able to observe and capture small moments of meaningful history in compositionally interesting (but not too distracting) ways was and is still to me the most interesting and exciting challenge.

Best Regards,


"I ain't an athlete, lady. I'm a ballplayer."

John Kruk, Philadelphia Phillies, during the World Series.

By the way, Happy Birthday. And, being a new grandfather, have you chosen yet what the little tyke will call you? Pops, pop-pop, gramps, grandfather, granfer, dzadzu (Polish), granpere?

I'm not sure recorded music is a good comparison to AI. Maybe attending a concert where the performers are holograms and the music AI-generated would be.

I agree that the real world is an important part of what a photograph is. You can tell this from the comments to the fraudtographer's creations: what camera did you use? Yet it's interesting - and perhaps telling - that the real world is less compelling to many that an AI-generated idealization.

Digital photography has been a slippery slope. Many thought Don McCullin was being a reactionary when he noted digital photography's propensity to lie. "I can show you the negatives," was his response to the difference between it and film. He was right. The problem receded from view for a while but has re-emerged with a vengeance in AI.

The ease of prompting the AI to generate something that will "fool people" is the problem not that film wasn't capable, with comparable great effort, to also lie. At the center is the question of trust, which is eroding at breakneck speed and it is only going to get worse.

> The later parts of the book describes the increasing use of tricks, fakery, programming, and synthesizing to create sounds that exist only as recordings and have little to do with reality.

The word "reality" is doing a lot of work here. There is music to be made with tools of all sorts, not just what the last 250 years of "tradition" have decided to call "real" instruments. I mean, keep in mind that by some standards no _amplified_ instruments or voice count as "reality" with respect to music, so I think one should be careful about how one draws arbitrary lines for what counts as a "real" musical performance.

And so it is with photography as well. Take the purity tests too far and the result is requiring people to throw away tools that can be used in perfectly respectable ways when constructing images that look like "reality" (HDR, image stacking, focus stacking, image stabilizer tricks, semi-software driven night exposures).

This is not to say that there is not a lot of fakery in the music or photo worlds ... but it's not simply the use of certain tools that make that come to pass. It's the intention of the people using that tools that matters. But maybe that's what you meant to say anyway.

A local star of TV news was stomping around the newsroom one day after "the book" (local ratings) came out, and paused to brag, "I'm not a journalist, I'm a ratings machine!" One of the older hands looked up and said, "Well, you're half right."

Mike wrote "Photography is moving farther and farther away from the era in which the aim was to accurately report what was in front of the camera, and increasingly occupying territory that was previously the domain of art."
As have many others for over a hundred years I have felt that interpreting what one sees in front of the camera is not a fad or era to be moved away from. Even the acclaimed Mr. Adams did not accurately report what was in front of his camera ie: black soot skies mostly don't appear in nature.
Yet, you are correct, there are many poor quality photographic images offered up as art on the internet. Poor, not because they've been manipulated but because they're just not well done.

Surely there is room for abstraction and impressionism in photography much as there is for realism in painting. The idea of accurately reporting what is in front of the camera still applies, with unwavering vigor I hope, to photojournalism, but did it ever apply to, say, commercial fashion? I think some of Sarah Moon's work is so beautiful it transcends that genre, and I would not wonder or care whether her images faithfully reproduce "the sound of acoustic instruments playing in a real space," so to speak, with a salute to the late great Harry Pearson. Accurate reporting does not apply to every artist or perhaps to even many artists.

I recently met a portrait photographer who travels the southeast region of the U.S. for sessions with children in the homes of well-to-do families. His professionally lighted and posed portraits are then rendered as oil-on-canvas paintings by someone else in the company he works for. There's no deception in this, the clients understand how the process works, and though I imagine the result is far from great art, it's at least more carefully and classically realized than applying a digital filter to a photo and outputting the file as a "painting" through an ink-jet printer on fine-art paper. The person executing the painting, however, is handed an image not of her own conception or composition. Who is the artist here?

Would the Instagram fraud guy be a thing if he had avoided contriving back stories for some of his subjects and worked the AI photo-like "original" as a painting instead of finishing it out as a photograph? Would he still be lying if he took credit for the images as digital paintings?

I happen to agree Mike. I love photography, and admittedly my definition is narrow, and definitely unfair. To my mind it is a human being seeing through a camera (I’m enough of a snob I prefer it to be mechanical.) I do believe this gentleman is creating “Art” since the intention is to create an emotional object. His marketing approach (Aka lying about his process) could be his performance approach. I have no hard feelings towards him. Looking at every one of his images it’s obviously heavily processed, and not the look I love, but honestly no different to me than the majority of what we see everywhere now. I’m resigned to being a fan of a niche art style now. My love of traditional B&W prints is really no different than some one who appreciates hand cut stained glass or furniture produced with hand tools. The human, mechanical process and effort matter to me. I’m older and excited to live long enough to see the next generation of artists revive what I love. It’s happening now, as young people rediscover the beauty of a chemical darkroom. Creating new fine prints in silver. Viva de l’art!

I am a lapsed audiophile who long shared your search for capturing the sound of "live music" in the sounds of recordings, I have to admit that the concept is very fuzzy. The spaces in which live recordings are made vary enormously and often with the character of the music genre. When I moved to Philadelphia in 1974, I became an Orchestra subscriber. Its home, the Academy of Music, was known as a "bone dry" acoustic and the Orchestra had, since it started making stereo recordings, abandoned it as recording venue. Its deficiencies were largely masked in mono recordings. But even in the stereo era, the dryness of the Academic came through in radio broadcasts of concerts. Speakers were better, but the Orchestra still sounded like it was recorded in a concrete closet.
I also am old enough to remember Acoustic Research--which introduced acoustic suspension speakers--in the 1950s used to conduct demonstrations in which a chamber music group began a performance during which a curtain closed and they were replaced by a stereo recording of them playing the same work. As the recording proceeded, the curtain opened, revealing the ruse. The audience, whether sophisticated concert goers or not, was always astonished. Then I read somewhere that the same kind of demonstration occurred early in the 20th century. We hear what we expect to. And live music is influenced by recordings. In the 1930s and through WWII, most people heard music played through terrible speakers on home and car radios. The sound was tinny, and live performances began to sound the same way because that was what most people expected music to sound like.
With modern multi-track recordings and mixes, the real live performance is in the studio. Live performances are simply simulations.

Disordered thoughts:

The greatest invention of the 20th century was high fidelity music recording.

It is disappointing to see the documentary facility of both visual and audio recording/reproducing media used to make junk, but there does seem always to be a market for junk.

Sometimes junk sounds interesting.

Both media first established credibility as reliable documentary media before being applied by artists and entrepreneurs to higher (sometimes) artistic (sometimes) purposes.

The technical pioneers of both media busted their collective asses to get the most realistic, lifelike reproduction.

Heavy computer-assisted music (that cannot actually be performed in a room) often feels dead and occasionally ugly to me. As soon as I perceive that a song on the radio is computer generated, I have this sinking, defeated feeling and reach, disappointed, for the OFF switch.

AI is all the rage now and increasingly recognized as a two-edged sword, just like what photo-shopping has done to the reputation of quite a few well known photographers.

"Photographs are only beautiful insofar as they are true."

Makes me laugh. Is truth really being told by images captured in fractions of a second? At some level all images are manipulated. Even film images.

Take a deep breath. Most people are not journalists. MidJourney image AI is just software for creating digital renderings. It does not lie, people lie. Nothing special here.

Over the years you have taken a dim view of digital photography, HDR, Photoshop, and other technologies. If I were cynical I'd say this is about generating online interest but hopefully not.

BTW, is it difficult to make the kind of renderings I saw in the link using MidJourney. Please try your hand if you don't believe me. Be prepared to spend a little money.

This fakery is not quite as bad as Richard Prince's "rephotographs" of the Marlboro Man, but it's pretty close. Your email box may well fill with soi-disant "intellectual debate" at the level of, "If Photoshop is okay, why not this?" Pshaw. "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." This fellow and his ilk are simply lazy flim-flam artists, nothing more.

Hi Mike,
Sorry for posting a comment completely unrelated to this topic.
It harks back to your one re music.
I saw this article about how people generally approach new music as they age. Based on scholarly research. Interesting read, and implications.



I have enjoyed listening to music since my teens. The question of the quality of the recorded music I listen to interests me.

I remember the birth of the CD. I listened to one of the early CD players at a friends house, and bought one the next week. The CD I heard that evening was crystal clear without all those clicks and pops that I had got used to.

The quality of the vinile LP's I bought back then was truly awful. In the late seventies and early eighties, they often arrived warped and if played in the record shop, pre- scratched. Only ECM and a few others maintained good quality pressings and decent support thickness. It was no wonder the LP died very quickly back then.

Now we have a vinile revival, that I find hard to understand. I am told the CD has a "colder" sound compared to the LP having a "warm" sound. It smells of clever marketing by the record companies to my ears.

I had an interesting conversation with a friend who is a musical consultant for a leading Italian Opera house, and is involved with recorded music professionally.

The main takeaways are that CD's have got a bad name due to poor mastering. A well mastered CD is the closest we can get to a live performance.
The "warmth" of an LP, is really just distortion that is dependent on the technology of the support.

Indeed to my ears a well mastered CD is the closest I can get to what I experience when I go to a live concert, and here I am talking about acoustic music.

As one who spent hours in a smelly darkroom, I have similar feelings about the "analogue film" revival, when I look at the pictures my D850 produces.

Casually observing my own small world of family and friends, the interest in taking a picture seems to be the in the editing. While most are taken with a phone without much thought, there is an immediate rush to manipulate and see what can be created. Then of course posted for some sort of public response. I never much cared for editing. I avoid it all together if I can. The tools today make it much too easy for excessive manipulation and the end result is no longer a photograph. It is a construct art form via software instead of a paint brush. I guess reality is often just too mundane.

I would politely disagree, though the thesis is intriguing.
A photograph has always been a conscious abstraction from the bigger world it's plucked from, not just a simple record. Look here, not over there. From the very beginning, photographers used technical tricks to create something different from a straightforward reproduction of the subject. Gustave Le Gray blended sea and sky from different negatives for the Great Wave way back in 1857. Pictorialism was arguably the first coherent artistic movement in photography, and it involved heavily manipulated images. Ansel Adams' entire oeuvre was defined by alteration for artistic effect. There has always been tension in photography "straight" prints and more aggressive manipulation. I've found the fury directed toward pictorialism by Adams and the Newhalls puzzling. To me they were splitting hairs; "this much manipulation is fine, but that much? that's just too far!"

The use of AI in the recent Revolver remix/reissue put me off forking out any money for it. Peter Jackson's Demixing technology is amazing, but do we need to introducing AI into something that is great as is?

AI image generation isn't writing with light. It's amazing, but photography it isn't.

Remember when the cry was, "This is not art, it's a fraud! It turns out that a camera was used to make these portraits!" The technology that is used to make an image is of no consequence. Whether looking for attractive faces and lighting on the street, in the studio, or in thousands of AI-generated images, you are still using your eye and artistic vision. The image is all that matters. I believe that whoever selected and photoshopped these images has a great eye and real talent. Perhaps, he shouldn't have deceived anyone, but an artist has no obligation to describe their method.


As a humanitarian consultant, I support relief agencies working in crisis situations around the world. One of my current jobs is in Turkey, where I'm helping to set up a multi-donor fund for relief efforts in northwest Syria. When the earthquake struck Turkey and Syria on February 6th, I was actually in Poland, working on the Ukraine response. I returned to my team in Gaziantep, Turkey a week later, not knowing what to expect. Thankfully, the epicenter was further northwest, and although 3,273 people died and over 14,000 were injured in the district, my colleagues and the majority local population were safe.
During my two weeks in Gaziantep, I managed to leave my apartment only a few times due to the heavy workload. When I did, I visited the old town, which had also been heavily affected by the earthquake. Open spaces were being used to house tents for displaced families, including many Syrian refugees.
As a passionate photographer that is not bound by deadlines, I find it helpful to work analog and to capture images that tell a story. I also think analogue is truer (hence my comment to your article). With my camera in hand, I was able to speak with families, express my condolences, and take a few photos that I hope capture the strength and resilience of those affected by the earthquake.
During my short visits to the old town, I only managed to spend a total of three to four hours walking. Having a camera with me gave me a purpose to speak to the women men, and children I saw. Without a camera, I would probably not have made the step to reach out to families I met. I was also a bit traumatized myself, having experienced two heavy earthquakes on the 26th floor of my apartment building on the 20th of February. And I could have only imagined how they felt. Out in the cold, in tents, with limited support, und unsure about the future.
I feel privileged to witness the courage and determination of the people I met, and I hope the images I took give a glimpse into their daily lives as they rebuild their homes and communities. Although I'm not a press photographer and didn't document the massive destruction in Turkey and Syria, I hope you find these photos interesting.
On the (unimportant) technical side of things, I had my old, trusty Nikon F2 and a 50mm lens in my apartment, and brought an equally trusted Leica M4 with a 35mm and a couple of rolls of Ilford HP5 for the occasion.
Best regards, Wolfgang

This is fascinating! I did go into looking at these portraits knowing that they are AI fabricated, so I was looking for what might give them away. There is something unnatural going on, especially with the close up portraits. They give the appearance of being shot with a wide angle lens , as the noses appear larger; but, there is a very shallow depth of field. Perhaps you could get effect with a Large Format camera but not likely from a regular camera?
Thanks for posting this Mike. I am curious to look into this topic further now, as I was quite oblivious to it. It’s kinda disturbing though😳

Mike, I so so agree with you on this point.

For some years I've attempted to convey the disappointment I feel with the emphasis of most modern photograph with the following statement. Part of a famous telephone conversation in July, 1969 seemed relevant:

For one priceless moment, in the whole history of man, all the people on this Earth had a means of recording what the world looks like, for a moment of time, right then in that actual moment, and of preserving that moment for everybody else and our future descendants to marvel at, just as we can marvel at far-away and not-so-far-away places and times from a century ago and in the recent past. And do all this in a manner in which people can trust to be true.

But then some other people, evidently more engaged with expressing or imposing their own thoughts on the world or of wanting to modify what the world looks like to them, got involved.

We should not expect way of expressions remain unchanged over years.
Art is expressions.

Beauty of an image, if and when is not important but the expressed feelings are and the final product is capable to connect with viewer and impact their mind and opinion about past/present/future...to me it is a wonderful image.

Mode of achieving that image is secondary or not important at all to me, as long as the intent is expressed, context is utilized and creator is owning the responsibility of the image.

Sensibility is an ever changing perception in our social history, so I could not bring sensibility word with intent and context in the above mentioned paragraph.

Great post, Mike.

There has always been manipulation and construction in photography and few photographs just record what was there. This has taken it to another level though. I fear for my grandchildrens future in this new world.

I know sometimes you throw something out there just to be provocative but…

I’d say any of the following photographers have beautiful photographs that tell their own “truth” which may have nothing to do with truth in the classic definition, but again maybe this is what you meant or were driving to. I think of both current photographers I’m aware of Andreas Gursky, Gregory Crewdson, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Brooke Shaden and a few that go back a bit further; László Moholy-Nagy, Man Ray, Jerry Uelsmannn or his wife, Maggie Taylor (though of course she is current).

Or is your argument that in the world of digital photography one may never know what is true, which again depends on how you define truth from a portrait sitting to an advertising photograph.

I feel like all of this is about wanting to believe a photo is "true" until proven "false". While the solution is simply to believe that a photo is "false" until proven "true".

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