Sunday, April 13, 2008

What is modified? Part 1 - Saturation

Photographs by Brian Walski/Los Angeles Times

The top two photos involving Iraqi civilians by a Los Angeles Times photographer in March 2003 were blended in violation of the newspaper’s policy, and it fired the photographer.

I'm starting a new series about the concept of what exactly a modified photograph is. My goal being to stimulate this little community to examine how digital technology has changed the way we see and interpret an image. 

Part 1 - Saturation
In a recent print contest, part of the entry guideline criteria and indeed an entire category was devoted to modified images. The idea being that if you have modified an image, that should be disclosed. I agree wholeheartedly but the distinction of what that properly is has been a topic of much discussion and controversy, how far can you go before manipulation or alteration is necessary to distinguish for a particular image. In this installment, I'm looking specifically at saturation. 

For the contest that I entered, I made slight adjustments to saturation for all three images that were submitted. Not overly significant or beyond what nature could have provided in the way of color, it is part of my normal workflow to make such an adjustment so I don't consider this manipulation. I could have produced the same adjustment level by changing to Mode III on my Nikon or by using Velvia film. Still, I paused before checking the box that the image was not manipulated. I certainly don't want to tarnish my reputation by coming off as deceitful. Perhaps other photographers don't worry as much about this. I don't know so here's my attempt to start a discussion. Let me know what you think.
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1 comment:

jelbar said...

This is a good topic for discussion.

Let me offer my own opinion (as a film photographer, nonetheless)

I think we should dismiss all distinctions and adopt an "anything goes" mentality. The definitions between what is "natural" and what is "artificial" in any medium, photography or otherwise, have become incomprehensible and no longer useful for the dialog between photographer and viewer.

Journalists still scramble for something called "honesty" and "integrity." But how is photoshopping different than in situ compositional choices? Is there any difference between pre, production, and post production?

If anything, the new complexities of the digital process have simplified the entire debate and allowed us to disregard the process and return to a place where we ask "what is this image? What does it say to me?" We return to a simple emotional relationship between photographer and viewer.

You give me images, I react to them . If you disregard the concept of "purity," how can there be any deceit?