Sunday, July 22, 2012

Photography Ain't What It Used to Be

To say, "Photography ain't what it used to be," is an understatement. A colossal understatement! Discussing all the many things which have profoundly changed photography in the last decade or so could fill volumes. (No revelation there.)

While I appreciate, enjoy, and regularly employ so much of what's new or newer to photography, most of what's changed in the way we do things and the gear we use to do it doesn't mean much to me in terms of personal satisfaction. In spite of photography's more recent abilities to easily alter and manipulate images, the only thing that still tweaks my pride, just as it always has, is producing photographs which are -- on their own and without much in the way of digital additives -- good photographs.

Now don't get me wrong. None of that is to say I don't take advantage of what's new or different or changed. For example, I regularly alter or manipulate images to varying degrees after I've snapped them.  It's also not to say I'm not appreciative for the ease in which I can take an "okay" image and make it a bit more "okay" or even take a good image and make it better than good. I am. But when I do so, and I do so quite often, the resulting images don't make be beam with pride. Instead, I simply feel like I've snapped something that's merely "okay" or "kinda good" and later made it a cut above "okay" or "kinda good." I do so, of course, by digitally re-working those original photos. Yes, there's satisfaction in doing that. But it's not the kind of satisfaction that feels exceptionally satisfying if you get my drift. Instead, if feels kind of fake, like faking an orgasm fake... not that I've ever faked an orgasm. Faking an orgasm is not generally, you know, a guy thing.

Many of today's photographers, myself included, are a bit like magicians. Magicians don't really perform magic, not genuine, bona fide, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry style magic. Rather, magicians perform tricks and slights of hand and create illusions. That's what digital manipulations of photos feel like to me: Slight of hand tricks and illusions. As such, they can certainly be entertaining and perceived as being really good but, in the end, I know they represent trickery and false illusions. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that. Half the time, perhaps most of the time, those who are being entertained or impressed by digitally altered images don't have a clue-- a clue that they're looking at a magician's illusion that is. I'm just saying.

On the other hand, whenever I capture an image that's a pretty good image, one that is, like all photographs, akin to an illusion (when compared to reality) but one that, later on, requires very little massaging or frosting or adding other things from a photo-magician's bag of digital tricks, I generally feel prouder of myself. You know, as a photographer with a camera... period.  Admittedly, it doesn't happen as often or as consistently as I'd like but it happens often enough to remind me that the true satisfaction I get from photography has little to do with photography's evolution or the amount of instant-pudding digital trickery I'm now able to easily whip up.

I've seen images I've snapped where either I or someone else, some retoucher or digital artist, has transformed it into a really cool digital image. And yes, I get a kick out of that. But that kick, that little jolt of excitement which might make me pat myself on the back, is relatively short-lived.  For me, and probably for many other photographers, there's not much in the way of a digitally-altered nature, especially in terms of post-production, which can replace the more lasting good feelings and sense of accomplishment obtained by producing a cool photo the moment it's snapped. That's why I pride myself in being a photographer first and a magician second... or third or fourth. Actually, I'm not really sure where "digital magician" resides on my personal pride scale.  While digital manipulation and trickery might make (what appears to be) great looking photographs, I know in my photographer's heart of hearts that's not what they truly are. They might be great digital illusions in their final form, but great photographs they are not. Leastwise, not always or too often.

The pretty girl at the top is Jenna. (Click to enlarge.) I snapped it a while back in a studio with my Canon 5D sporting an 85mm prime. My camera settings were ISO 100, f/5.6 at 125th. I used three lights, i.e., monolights. My main light, set camera left at about a forty-five, was modified with a Photoflex 5' Octodome. The kickers behind and on both sides were Chimera medium strip boxes. The one on the left provided some soft fill and a few highlights while the one on the right was cranked up for more obvious highlights and for creating some chiaroscuro on her back, adding a bit of lighting "drama" to the shot.

1 comment:

Nadja said...

I really love this photo, the light is fantastic.
The pose and the gaze of the girl are also great.
And the background is really cool.