As we search for individual photographic interpretations both left and right of natural or lifelike characteristics, it is vital this journey that almost always contradicts nature in one form or another, should also be subject to full disclosure of intent: the integrity of the photographer is center stage, and as a consequence, the art world, including both artists and patrons of the art, are entitled to disclosures revealing any and all digital post-production manipulation used to create a fine art photograph.
For several months, feedback on social media, or the lack thereof, by photographer’s presenting (or posting) their work, but either never respond, skirt the question or state it is a trade secret on how they produced their final piece, when ask to do so, gives me pause, and genuine concern. At this very moment, as we head with increasing speed farther along the digital photography highway, cruciality of transparency and integrity is vital if we are going to successfully destruct the virtual wall that continues to nurture a variety of suspicious discourse between painters, traditional fine art photographers and photographers choosing alternative (and extreme) digital processes in creating fine art photography.
My advocacy is directed for definitive and consistent categorizing of photography in museums, galleries, online competitions and photography clubs, to clearly differentiate between naturalistic and imaginative photographic styles. We have ventured far past extreme “dodge and burning”, (both in traditional wet darkrooms and the digital darkroom) most notably documented when studying Ansel Adams landscapes, for example. Adams heavy contrasted interpretations never transcend our sensory perceptions that we are viewing a scene anything other than an authentic natural aesthetic, regardless if Adam's final piece represents an exaggerated aesthetic compared to the scene at time of capture. Most notable of these aesthetic extremes was Adam's frequent use of strong contrast, for one example.
Conversely, more recent photography practices are 1. transcending the basic characteristics of a photograph and instead reveal an alternative to reality or 2. are false representations of natural landscapes that may include composites, focus stacking, multiple exposures in conjunction with digital software ingenuity, indeed, fooling the viewer in what they believe is a wonderfully composed natural scene. In fact, the authenticity (of technique) of the photograph should be in question, unless full disclosure has accompanied the work.
Time and time again, I emphasize it is not the style or function of practice a photographer utilizes that is at the heart of my disdain, but instead how photographs are categorized. It is so unfortunate photographic artists, museum curators, gallery directors, and even more disturbing, national and world wide photography organizations that refuse to categorize between photographic category-genres, and instead present these different types of photographic work side-by-side! To be continued.
Lance A. Lewin