I have been very slow to either investigate or use any aspect of digital photography! Having been trained and having worked as a film-based commercial photographer so many years ago, I felt that I simply had no use for digital image making. For one thing, it was completely foreign to me. For another, I was completely in love with customary (analog or film & chemical) photography. I imagine that the fact that I was well into my 5th decade when digital photography was beginning to make its presence felt in the photography world had a great deal to do with my prejudices.
The fact that it (digital photography) required some considerable acquaintence, if not genuine expertise, with computers and software did not faze me. I had been programming applications since roughly 1986 when I bought my first XT desktop clone. So that was not the sticking point. NO, what it amounted to was that I simply did not believe that digital photography was “real” photography!
I mean “real” in the sense that the result of a digital photograph is never a certain thing. Too many ways to manipulate, change, add-to or subtract from the image exist, so that any image produced might bear only a semblence of the actual scene that the photographer saw when the original exposure was made. Of course, that statement is also true for analog photography and always has been. I simply forgot to remember that fact.
When I was in professional practice, I sometimes relied on multiple-printing wherein I would expose different negatives on one sheet of paper to come up with a print that was a combination of both or even several images. As a photo student, later as a pro, I admired the work of Jerry Uelsmann, the great multiple-printing genius. What he did with negatives and photographic paper was nothing short of miraculous. In a quote referenced by John Paul Caponigro, in his “Illuminating Creativity” site, we are told that Jerry said. . .
“Let us not be afraid to allow for “post-visualization.” By post-visualization I refer to the willingness on the part of the photographer to revisualize the final image at any point in the entire photographic process.” – Jerry Uelsmann – See more at: 21 Quotes by Jerry Uelsmann
Jerry Uelsmann did not have the benefit of our modern digital technology when he produced his stunning works using multiple-printing techniques. Yet he manipulated his art quite as much as any current digital photographer/artist. Going back to the time when I first saw his work, I never even questioned whether it was “real” or not. It was the expression of his art which was solidly based in photography and, though it was far from a literal scene captured as a single image, it was absolutely real in the sense that it was the vision of a great photographer and artist.
So, just as the work of other great photographers, such as Ansel Adams, was “real,” it too was usually highly manipulated, though not necessarily through multiple-printing. But it was certainly manipulated and was hardly that which was originally captured. It was purposefully exposed to bring out certain tonalities in the negative through selective development, which were then dodged, burned in, highlighted through bleaching and toning, and were, in fact, as much a product of both pre and post-visualization as the work of Mr. Uelsmann (or myself, for that matter!)
It took me a while to realize this fact as I thought that, given the relative ease by which a digital image is manipulated and produced, it was somehow not true to the art of photography. Now, I understand and appreciate that it is all, and only, art! If it begins as a photograph, contains elements of images which are photographs, can be recognized as having some visage of its having photographic content and qualities, then it is still a photograph. And, most importantly, it is ART!
I realize now that this is the crux of the matter: however it might have been produced, no matter how much manipulation there has been, the final result is a work of art. It is no more “real” than any “real” photograph. It is still a two-dimensional representation of whatever the artist intended. Because of that fact, it is art.
The new world of photography allows considerable freedom in terms of what is, and remains, photographic art. Now that I see and understand this fact, I find that I am free to also manipulate and create as much as I wish and as much as I have in the past. There is much to learn in order to master this new world of photography, but I am happily engaged in doing just that and I invite anyone who happens upon my site to come along for the ride!
Why not have a look at my photographic work, and visit my galleries now that you’re here?