In my opinion, culturally, we have entered into a paradigm shift in how we approach and look at photographs.
Using an assortment of post-production software - and even some in-camera programs - a plethora of different image file manipulations are at every one’s finger tips. Thus, the temptation to use (or abuse) these tools is seemingly hypnotic: from the casual cell phone camera user to professional photographers, there seems to be an urgent need to morph almost every picture that populates review screens. In my opinion, and within certain genres of photography, post-production manipulative tool usage is not just prolific, its more abusive than ever, making us question what is genuine photographic art or what is real in newspaper and magazines articles and the photographs that accompany them.
From the removing of dust particles to distorting the original psycho-physiological photographic characteristics in “realist” style photographs (these examples commonly seen as High Dynamic Range compositions, where ordinary portraits, structures or events is presented in a hyper-reality), we are inundated with these altered realities being published and promoted (and accepted by some), as a new norm. Another software example that was created to take the “artist” out of photography (in my opinion) is “LandscapePro”, an advanced post-production software created by Anthropics Technology Ltd, in London, had me falling off my office chair in anger (not shock!). The software can change almost any landscape photo into a fully realized balanced composition with just a few clicks! Amazing, yes! Disturbing, genuinely!
And addressing the manipulation of images in photojournalism – it has been well documented, indeed. Believing Is Seeing (Observations On The Mysteries Of Photography) by Errol Morris – Penguin Press 2011, investigates topics such as, ‘intentions of the photographer’, ‘capturing propaganda and fraud’, and ‘photographs reveal and conceal’, documenting cases of journalistic fraud with text and accompanying photographs. This book is an eye-opener on the prolific use of manipulation in journalism to twist or otherwise obscure the truth in trying to create alternative narratives that only serve the authors' left or right wing agenda.
There is a lot more for us to discuss and debate here, but for now, I am suggesting that a cultural shift, if you want, is making us question the “narrative-validity” of most photographic art and news related photos: from so called “fake news” to the morphing of reality through the use of techniques like High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography in creating hyper-realities, we can no longer freely interpret what we see and read as real, but instead, pause and contemplate the validity or authenticity of a piece of photographic art, and photojournalism that inundate our space through television and more perversely through social media outlets.
As always, I look forward to hearing your response: whether you agree or have alternative points of view - I hope to hear from you, all. Thank you.
Lance A. Lewin