With the proliferation of software such as Adobe Photoshop, it is easier than ever to make models thinner, skies bluer and erase those pesky telephone lines from our prized photographs. Somewhere along the way, the average person on the street, or the novice to photography got the incorrect notion that manipulation is a recent innovation developing alongside the computer age.
Altering a photo to meet the vision of the photographer has been going on since the early years of photography. The photo above is the master himself, Ansel Adams sitting in front of an unaltered photo of “Moonrise Over Hernandez” and his final “vision” of the famous scene. (This BLOG has six of my articles written in January and February of 2011 addressing photo manipulation.) Because the question continues to come up, I will continue to address it.
Since Ansel Adams is likely the most recognized photographer and his work so widely recognized, I will use him as an example here. In my February 25, 2011 BLOG article, I quoted Ansel discussing his removal of the letters LP from the Easter Sierra Mountains near the town of Lone Pine. He said he was “…not enough of a purist to perpetuate the scare and thereby destroy … the extraordinary beauty and perfection of the scene.” He therefore removed this from all prints. He went so far as to scratch the negative, making that area white, resulting in a pure black spot where the LP once was. In his book, the “Making of 40 Photographs” he continually discusses how difficult some of the prints were to make, each requiring much dodging of light, making the print lighter or burning other sections, making them darker. He would alter chemical baths, use colored filters and scratch the negatives, making this part of the photo totally black, to make the final print, match his “vision” at the time the photo was captured. He never discusses accurately representing a scene, rather taking artistic steps to have a photo reflect his vision. Ansel Adams was on the leading edge of photo technology for his time, always trying new chemical treatments and new cameras. It is very clear to me he would have been a huge proponent of the photo altering software such as Adobe Photoshop.
To once again show how he changed his most popular photograph, here are his unaltered, straight print image of Moonrise over Hernandez and the final version, which by the way he reinterpreted and printed very differently over the years.
I contend all photographs are manipulated including the simple .jpeg images in the point and shoot cameras. Those are manipulated to the standards of the Joint Photographic Engineering Group (JPEG). Professional photographers do not want to settle for the standards of others or have a standard dictated to us, so we use a RAW file and start creating our vision and artwork.
If you are interested in this topic, my earlier BLOGS may be a good place to start reading. These were posted January to February 2011 in this same blog.