Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Editing: before and after.

I'm a photographer. That means I use a camera to make pictures. It doesn't mean that I subscribe to some unwritten set of rules about what you can and cannot do to the pictures once you've taken them. Whatever those rules are, I don't pay any attention to them. I manipulate the hell out of all my pictures.

I'm not interested in telling the truth. Truth and honesty are two entirely different things. I am utterly committed to being honest, but not truthful. For me, being truthful visually is recounting what you saw. Being honest is recounting what you feel. There's a big difference. I have infinite respect for journalists and documentarians who at least try to tell the truth, but that's not me.

Photography is a unique art, in that it seems to have a set of values foisted on it from the outside that have nothing to do with its inherent nature. It's hard to imagine a piece of music where the musician was prompted to say, "this music was written without using electricity" or the preface to a novel that read, "written longhand without using a computer." But time and time again I see photographers who trumpet the fact that their pictures were created entirely in camera without the use of Photoshop. Why should we care? Is the point of photography just to see how good an image you can make with one hand tied behind your back?

Supposedly, darkroom manipulation is OKAY - probably because it's been done since Day One, and besides, Ansel Adams did it. But using Photoshop is NOT OKAY - probably because a lot of people don't know how to use it and feel threatened by it. Frankly the distinction is utterly lost on me.

If you want to limit photography to determining which horse won in a race, then I suppose it can be called truthful. But the minute you add any creativity to it, it is selective, subjective, interpretive and by definition no longer truthful. Does anybody really think Cartier-Bresson, or Stieglitz or Avedon were reporting on the way things looked? Oh, please.

Here are a couple of before/after pictures to give you an idea of just how untruthful I am (at least I'm being honest about it).

This is the way the Great Wall really looks - not all that impressive on a miserable gray day with a bunch of tourists climbing all over it. I replaced the sky, took out all the distracting details and added some shadows.

Maybe it didn't look like this, but it COULD have...

This is from a series of pictures I did entitled Desert Realty. That's a play on words - it's Realty, not Reality. The building is real - in Darwin, California, a one-horse town in the middle of nowhere -

but I cleaned up the location and changed the time of day to present it in a more optimal setting.

This one was shot for stock - I loved the signs but I thought it needed more order in the composition.

So I drove down to another car lot, shot the cars there and combined the two. Might as well clean up the background, take out the other signs and put in a happier sky while you're at it...

I'll probably have more to say about all this in the future. Once I get started on this subject, you can't shut me up.


Pixelhead said...

Whuuuu Huuu... Ed's got a blog!

Welcome to the blogosphere on them there internets.

Go visit my blog and see that I haven't updated in months... it should take you 2-3 years before you become that bad.


TARACHIN said...

Wow wow weee waaa! You finally have a blog!!! Yay!

I added your blog and am following you now... more like stalking you..ehehehe...

I dont see your followers section, anywho, you can have a look at mine, havent updated it in few months but will soon, when I get inspired :)

You will notice that our first underwater image is my banner/title image, hope you dont mind, it suits the whole "Naked Soul" title..


Good read btw, and I so love the Great Wall image, have seen your updated website, looking good ;)

Love ya!

Holly - Ivory Flame said...

Hey Ed, I will watch out for your updates! I actually used one of our pictures under a poem I wrote on my first blog entry ever :) ~
Take care, Holly xxx

cyrilliu said...

Yeah yeah! Congratulations on your blog!

Wen from Taipei

PS. By the way, Kentucky was gorgeous.

Abran said...


Thanks for sending me the link, good stuff! I need to make me one of these bloggermagigs one of these days.

I have been working on my photoshop skills, I dont remember half the things you taught me but I have come a long way since last year Thx!

Mike Lynch Photography said...

Loving all your work, Ed!
That Chinese wall is Killer!