Saturday, July 27, 2013

Expectations of Reality

"Amazing Grace"

Reality in photography is mostly subjective. When someone views a photograph they make their own reality, as the photograph itself has none.

It is often said that “the camera never lies.” Actually, a camera can do nothing BUT lie. Everything it produces is a lie of one sort or another. The traditional camera’s product is a two-dimensional miniature rendition of full-sized subject matter. Sometimes the rendition is monochrome. If in color, it is only a very limited, distorted imitation of the colors its user saw.

Quite a few of my photographs in the last several years have been pushing the reality envelope. Back in the Olden Times I had experimented with many techniques for altering or enhancing an image: selenium, copper, and gold toning, split toning, masked effects, and many other ways to tweak an otherwise “straight” photograph. Looking back over the history of the craft I was in some pretty good company. But of course that didn’t stop the critics who never seemed to tire of pointing out that I was polluting the so-called purity of photography. I suppose purity, like realism, is in the eyes of the beholder.

When I changed over from film to digital I became aware that the ante on image manipulation had been upped considerably. I was a slow process for me. The one dominant means for photographic manipulation was complex and almost too feature-rich for any one person to ever “master.” Lately, there are alternatives but nothing out there allows the worker to get easy, quick results— no matter what the ads say. The recipes for images that I liked were never off the shelf, never easy or straight-forward. Achieving a successful result involved long experimentation and complex combinations of effects and procedures— and far more failures than successes.

Why bother? Most of the time I don’t. But sometimes I want “something more,” or maybe something less. I want something that cuts to the chase, so to speak. It might be degrees of abstraction, fiddling with color, or messing with light intensity. It could be anything. Or nothing— just a whim. When people ask I sometimes take the humorous way out and tell them that at my age I find reality highly overrated. Well, MAYBE I am being humorous.

There is an anecdote about Picasso being criticized about the distortions of his artwork. He asked the questioner is he was married, to which the man replied that he was. Picasso then asked him if he had a picture of his wife in his wallet. Why, yes, the man responded and produced the picture. “Lovely,” said Picasso, “but how can you have a relationship with such a tiny woman?”

Effects in manipulated images can be difficult to see in small sizes. Clicking on the image will enlarge it.


Brigid said...

Your photography is a marvel, in whatever form it occurs. I'm glad for one, of your appreciation of the craft.

Rio Arriba said...

Thanks, Brigid, for the kind words. You do me too much honor.