Friday, February 22, 2013

Hidden Truths, Obvious Lies....

   I've written before about using Photoshop to manipulate your images.  In one of my PhotoTao cards I encourage people to explore the possibilities but I want to write today about what I see as the Photoshop dichotomy...the hidden truths and the obvious lies we can create with this wonderful technology.

   In my post "The Annaberg Encounter", I spoke about needing to find a way to process the images I made that day in a way that would more clearly reveal the emotions I had at the location.  I used an infra red filter and a solarization effect to get the result I was after.  Both those process have been around for a long time. One could use infra red film and create solarized effects in the traditional dark room. It is just so much easier today in the digital darkroom.

   The photograph above was made in Rouen cathedral this past summer.  It was nothing wonderful in its original state so I tried a digital filter - neon glow - to bring out the edges and the wonderful stained give it the "other worldly" ambiance that I felt that day as I wandered through the cathedral.  Anyone looking at this image will clearly see the manipulation, like the Annaberg photographs, it was done for artistic purposes and to make visibly concrete the ethereal emotion of the place. I saw the use of these techniques as a way to reveal a "hidden truth" I'd discovered in the landscape at the Annaberg sugar mill and the interior of Rouen cathedral.

    What I object to, well perhaps "object" is too strong a word, is when Photoshop is used to create "obvious lies" taking a sky from one image and putting it in another...or importing objects, people, buildings, etc. into a landscape that weren't there originally.  Why do I avoid such manipulations?  It gets to the idea of truthfulness.  Today, when we go to movies or see photographs on the internet or in magazines, we question whether what we are seeing is an accurate rendition of the world or is it "photoshopped".  You really can't tell anymore and somehow I feel that that it is a bit dishonest. It's fine when the artist makes clear his/her intention to create a fantasy world but most of the time it is presented as the "real" world.  Isn't the real world wonderful enough?  Sometimes I think it is just laziness.  Much easier to make-up a dynamic, breathtaking image in photoshop than to spend time in the landscape seeking out the authentic one. We have become quite the "cut and paste" society today.  If we don't like something it is so easy to manipulate the reality to make it fit some inner criteria of perfection. 

   By all means, use photoshop to enhance your images.  Use it for an artistic effect to create a photograph that will inspire greater insight and further your contemplative practice but think about the truthfulness of those images.  Are you responding to a landscape or rejecting it?  Is your process one of co-creation or detached manipulation?   Are you looking for the sacred in the commonplace or are you just playing God?   You decide.

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