Processing Photographs

For me, there are “Four Joys” in photography: image creation, image processing, printing and public display. I do understand that there are some photographers who pride themselves in attempting to combine the image creation and processing in the camera, and shy away from processing. There is a lot to be said for this method. I prefer to get it right in camera and then explore the process of working with the image in post-processing software, of which there is a lot. The following is a discussion of the movement away from using the camera as a recording instrument toward a more creative use of the camera.

The evolving world of digital photography.

Sometimes a painter can be complemented by suggesting it is just like a photograph, and a photographer can be complemented sometimes by saying it is just like a painting.

Bernard Moncet,

I think this is an interesting observation. Initially, photography was used to record objects and people. Ironically lots of sales went to painters who used the photographs as a basis for a painting. The Pictorialists decided to break into the Art market by defocusing their images some using vaseline on the lens to make them more like fine art (now we use Lens Babies). But they did indeed move photography into the Fine Art Market. Then Ansel Adams went in the opposite direction with the f64 group. He decided to make things hyper-real, as we all know his film stock and darkroom manipulations were legendary. I suppose in today’s world he would have been extensively photoshopped his images. After that lots more happened but these two examples illustrate the extremes that occurred in analogue photography in an effort to make photography marketable in the art world.
Photographs continue, ever since Alfred Stieglitz, to operate both as a means of recording and an art process. So, the question of whether or not a photograph should be painterly surely must be answered by what world the photograph is going to inhabit.

Winter, Fifth Avenue, photogravure by Alfred Stieglitz, 1892; published in Camera Work, No. 12, October 1905.

If you are in the photojournalist world you can get fired if you do anything to an image unless, of course, you belong to Magnum then the editors can not touch you.

Raghu Rai, Local commuters at Chruch Gate railway station Mumbai, India 1995 Magnum Photos

If you are a portrait artist there is a lot more leeway and especially if you are Annie Liebowitz both to manipulate clients and the photographic process, but usually, some realism is demanded by your clients.

Annie Leibovitz

Digital photography unlike analogue photographs allows for much more manipulation than ever before and its printed form is completely different. Analogue photography was dependent on film stocks, papers, and darkroom manipulation. Digital on the other hand can use similar methods as some planographic techniques such as lithography and etchings; using cotton paper and pigment inks. This of course is only one of many ways of printing digitally. Then there is the translation into the computer full of all kinds of possibilities. 
This massive world of possibilities that is now available to both digital artists and photographers is just beginning to be explored. A great example of this might be a friend of mine who embedded a mysterious image of a woman in a mirror that only faintly appears when someone is close enough to trigger the proximity sensor. The Artist Diana Nicholette Jeon whose highly manipulated images are composed solely on “I” devices before being printed, mounted and glazed with encaustics.

Diana Nicholette Jeon,

Another interesting example is Instagram artist Marth Haversham whose collages mix foliage and flowers with cut-out body parts from magazines and newspapers, creating an illusion that only works when presented in 2D photographic format.

Martha Haversham,

In today’s photographic art world you have to create either enormous (often created by stitching), highly manipulated or mixed media images to get into art galleries these days. While more traditional photography is now often relegated to the museum circuit. 
Schools or movements in photography are, like all artistic practices, a dialectic between creative people experimenting within the new frontiers that are emerging. If we are playing in that world what is acceptable or not acceptable is dependent on whether or not we are advancing that dialogue. That means I think pushing the boundaries of the new frontier, not being afraid to misstep, and occasionally running full speed into a dead end.