January 15, 2019
Since its inception, photographers have sought to bring viewers into their vision of reality, if only through selective composition. Modern digital post-production processing, however, has raised legitimate questions about what is actually a photograph and viewers rightly wonder about the authenticity of what they see. The verb “Photoshopped” has taken on a negative connotation as a technique to trick viewers into falsely believing that the image accurately represents what was seen by the photographer.
From the start of my interest in photography, I have been drawn to edgy or playful subject matter. I became a devotee of Jerry Uelsmann, who pioneered photomontage techniques in his darkroom often using images from multiple negatives. In high school, I experimented with sandwiching two negatives together to make double exposures. The image below left consists of a portrait sandwiched with peeling paint. I also assembled still life tableaux. The image below right is made from a chess board and pieces with an LP cover propped up behind.
I don’t want visitors to my site to be or feel manipulated. So to be upfront, most images shown will have been adjusted to some degree (after being taken) for color balance, intensity, contrast, and exposure. Moreover, I do sometimes experiment with techniques that transform the composition. For example, in one current exhibit, I make long exposures with a handheld camera to convey a sense of motion or energy. In another current exhibit, I use an in-camera reflection tool through which I can compose mirrored images in the LCD monitor. I will inform viewers when images in an exhibit has been altered such that the integrity of the subject or composition is affected.
June 26, 2019
As mentioned in my bio, photography became an important part of my life starting in middle school. Earlier this year, I decided to try to return the favor by organizing a photography contest for local teens (see www.tpssvisionscontest.org), with an overall theme of “community”. I am especially interested in attracting teens who might not otherwise think of themselves as creative or artistic.
Photographs are expressions of our natural impulse to hold onto something that is meaningful to us – an event, a place, a moment. Memories shape our identity and looking at photographs can help. Still, so much has changed in photographic technology and the act of photography since I was a teen. Digital photography can actually devalue memory. When we take photographs now, it is so fast and easy. One risk of digital photography, especially with cell phones, is that we are replacing real memories with digital images that we are more than likely never to look at again. In one study, on a guided tour of a museum, study participants took pictures of some exhibits but not others. On a memory test a few days later, the people from the tour performed more poorly for the items that they took pictures of. Taking a photo led to worse recollection — we outsource our ability to recall. In combination with social media, digital photography also risks replacing real relationships and human experiences with virtual ones.
My hope is that, in a small way, the contest will counter this tendency and encourage participants to become more mindful about photography. Stay tuned.