Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1998/12/01

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Subject: Re: [Leica] Art Wolfe's book
From: Doug Herr <>
Date: Tue, 1 Dec 1998 19:44:30 -0500

On Tue, 01 Dec 1998, Eric Welch wrote:

>I'm not sure that artist is necessarily supposed to tell the truth the
>way a journalist does. They can tell the truth through fiction,
>exaggeration, as in a story-teller who tells stories they make up to be
>"lessons." Journalists on the other hand are bound to tell the truth,
>literally. Not that they do all the time, mind you.
>But a Nature Photographer should be bound by the same rules as journalists
>when their work is documentary in nature. I'm not sure Wolfe is going at
>in a legitimate way. I certainly have no use for a book supposedly about
>the patters in nature that are cleaned up to be perfect. Whatever happened
>to the tradition that the Navajos had that imperfection was necessary in
>their work? Now that's an idea I can buy. 


The problem I have with Wolfe's digital image creation stems from my
long-standing expectation that a photograph using natural subjects is an
accurate representation of reality, subject to minimal abstractions imposed
by the photographic process (i.e., two-dimensional, limited tonal range). 
Even after knowing for years that photographs are being digitally altered
I'm still expecting "reality" in a Nature photograph.  Some day the general
expectation will be that any image is manipulated unless stated otherwise
but I think we're a long way from that.

I don't think anything's wrong or immoral or nuthin' with digital image
creation or alteration but if the photograph is used in a documentary sense
then any digital work ought to be limited to very minor stuff (like getting
rid of scratches in the emulsion), 'cuz it's far too easy for an unknowing
person to put an animal in a habitat or context that is totally out of
character for that animal.

Doug Herr