Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Westfriedhof (I) : Lamps in Isolation (by fernando [pixelstains])

«lamps in isolation» (Westfriedhof Ubahn)

In a few profiles at flickr, and at other places, I read about people that want to take a photo and not do anything to it. That is, the best representation of reality is to leave the photo alone once out of the camera. Like other "hobbies" there are people who take this to a religious level and dismiss any post-processing, whether film or digital, not to say anything of dismissing digital all together -- we have been there before with CD vs. LP discussions.

However, this kind of "purity" did make me think of a simple conjecture, at least for entertainment purposes. Consider the following scenario: a camera is set up on a tripod at a location at a certain time of day, and photographers can come in and set up the shot. If compositional rules are to be obeyed, and the lighting is the same for all photographers, then the same photo will be taken. This of course, is an exaggeration to make a point. That is, if the pure purpose of photography is to master the proper set up of a camera, and follow certain compositional rules, then a number of photographers in that art will have to take the same photo. There is only one answer to the confluence of all that is taught about camera and composition: rules of thirds, a certain DoF, etc. Since the lighting conditions are the same for all photoraphers, and no post-processing is allowed, the images have to be the same, unless there is some foul up in the talents on how to set up the camera properly.

This scenario is intriguing to me, because, yet again, like other equipment-centric hobbies, the person is enslaved to the machine. That the photo is a piece of art, or very pleasing to the eye is not the issue at hand -- I have seen many of such photographs. I also understand that certain kind of photography demands this discipline and knowledge of an equipment, and architectural photography comes to mind.

Now, to inflict more "art," or subjectiveness, into the process, people can opt for filters, quirky lenses (e.g., lomo, holga, lensbaby), and even being out of focus. Actually, even camera motion can be included. These are "pre-processing," however, I find them just as restrictive. If I can figure out a way to mimic/replicate the pre-processing in post-processing, then there is no way to tell the difference, and pre- becomes a post-processing in disguise. Perhaps worse, the photographer still relinquishes all control to the camera. Not that photographers that do post-processing are liberated: many people can rely on "photoshop actions" to achieve a result, and be just as the pre-processing crowd to lose control. I think HDR can easily fall into this trap. Again, there are many pre-processing images that are wonderful, so it does not invalidate the outcome.

It seems to me that to liberate oneself into the realm of imagination, that post-processing is the only alternative that we have at the moment, provided that all currently available pre-processing can be implemented in post-processing, though I am not sure that polarized filtering can be achieved in post-processing, at least not readily or with today's camera range.

Further to the notion that a photo should not be untouched, is the fact that the camera itself is not a true representation of reality, no matter how accurate it is these days. So, to think that it should not be untouched to present reality as it is seems like an chimerical notion. The camera/lens distortions are such that I find it more fascinating to work with those distortions than to work around them, we can call that judo-distortion photography.

The photo above is my experience with no post-processing. (OK, some colour correction and cropping.) It was a fun photograph to take, it was a great place to visit, but it also made me think that there is little to take the photo into the realm of imagination.

To adhere the purity of photography to a camera, also means a lot of photos not being taken because it is the wrong time of day, and correcting with dodge and burn is not allowed. Very much a wasted opportunity, one that I cannot accept, nor have I.