Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hello, Purist!

I have been playing around on Flickr...the photo display community, these past few days.

It seems to work like this: you post a picture. You go hunting for other pictures you like and tell the people who made them that you think they are wonderful. (If you'd like to tell me how wonderful I am, my "Photostream" is http://www.flickr.com/photos/41659872@N00/ but please remember that I am very sensitive and have been known to cry and sob for hours if someone hurts my feelings.) Then they come back, look at your stuff and tell you they think you're wonderful too.

It's okay, I suppose. But I have noticed that on a number of Flickr groups have "NO PHOTOSHOP" rules. These rules are written with the same passion you'd say "NO DEAD MAGGOTS OR ROTTING CORPSES."

There's actually a group called "Photoshop is not a dirty word." I was a little surprised at the vehemence some of these people have about not using Photoshop.

How come?

I think it goes back to a belief that, since Photoshop is digital editing software, the people who use it are second-rate photographers who take crappy pictures and try to make them better with Photoshop.


In the first place: a crappy picture will (at best) be only marginally less crappy after you've slaved over it in Photoshop. The round man brandishing the two pickles up top (who I met at a Renaissance Faire in New York) is making a comparison. That's the way I see the Photoshop/Photography debate. It's entirely two different pickles.

They are related art forms -- but they are not the same. I happen to be married to a die-hard purist. She'll crop a picture. She'll even make some minor adjustments. But the pic you see is the pic she shot. (Speaking of photography, you'd do yourself a massive favor by reading her blog on the "Basics of Photography." Bar none -- it's the clearest instruction on what plays into taking a good picture http://blog.picajet.com/2008/08/11/digital-camera-lessons-they-are-free-online-just-google-them/)

I, on the other hand, usually look at the picture I am taking as the starting point of a Photoshop project. Of course I want the pic to be as excellent as possible. The better the original, the better the starting point for my project.

There are purists everywhere. There are even Photoshop purists who think that whatever effect you create MUST be done in Photoshop without the aid of plug-ins or third party filters. The idea is that if you don't know how to get the job done in Photoshop, you shouldn't be doing it.

I, on the other hand, think that the artist's concept for a visual piece is what really matters and who cares how he gets there? It takes as long to learn plug ins as it does to learn Photoshop in some cases. If you can get the exact effect you're looking for with a plug in -- I'm all for it.

"Garden Girl" -- the green woman above, is a white statue somewhere in New Zealand. The white was uninteresting. She's got a green gradiant now -- but still retains the stone look. Added shadows enhance the look. So does the brick wall...and the fact that the green on her was taken from the green plants behind her. ("Garden Girl." Get it?) I like touches like that.

I agree with the purists. It's no longer a photograph. It's an image of a photograph remade to suit the image I had in mind when I took it. It's now digital artwork.

This actor (the one with the goggles) was promoting a movie about a race between New York and Paris. Aside from being a wonderful concept, the picture just didn't work in color. It needed grain and it needed a single tone. It needed to look gritty. I don't know how it could work as well as a color or even a black and white piece.

I agree it takes skill to make a great photograph. Absolutely. It also takes skill to turn out a great digital image.

What's the purpose of visual communication anyway? We are all looking to communicate an idea or a feeling or a concept. We're all trying to make the viewer of every photograph or image feel something.

Here's a garbage can on Edmonton's Whyte Avenue. This is the "trendy area where there are also still a lot of street people."

I suspect one of them chose to put a different four letter word on top of a garbage can. I liked it. And while I was taken with the photograph, I was already thinking the image would be stronger if an element of "painterly" effect was added. The distortion is just enough to keep the image interesting.

So, hello Purists. It's nice to see you. I think you photographer types do some amazing work.

Now how about you all lighten up a little, okay? Take another look at the stuff graphic artists are doing and try to tell me there's not some wonderful art being generated. Or don't. Suit yourselves.

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