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

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Subject: [Leica] Re: Art Wolfe's book
From: Jim Brick <>
Date: Tue, 01 Dec 1998 18:51:21 -0800

About Art Wolfe's book.

It's amazing to me that people can look at everything from their 5 year
old's drawing of grandmothers house, to portraits by Picasso, to landscapes
by  Karen Francis Rugala, or birds by Robert Bateman, and call it art. What
are Ansel Adams prints classed as? Art? Photography?

I personally call it art.

I knew Ansel Adams and I have seen some "straight prints" of his negatives.
Not a pretty sight. All of Ansel Adams "creations" were "created" in the
darkroom. He sometimes spent weeks (many) making the FIRST PRINT. After
that, it was easier. But the manipulation that went on was not for the
faint of heart. Ansel Adams was himself, the pre-Alpha release of
Photoshop. Intensifying and reducing parts of negatives, masking, burning,
dodging, potassium ferricynade selective bleaching in the fixer (not rapid
fix), etc, etc, etc... He was both the composer and the conductor of the
concert. Mother nature provided the individual voices.

My point is, someone can completely manufacture an image in the darkroom
and it's OK. But run it through Photoshop, and it's a crime.

I know Art Wolfe. I have talked to him about digital manipulation. And I
agree with him. If you are producing art, how you produce it is up to you.
It's art. And art is in the eye of the beholder.

If you are producing reportage or documentary photographs, *altering* the
photographic content is forbidden. Enhancing the colors, creating better
separation, and the like, is OK. But be careful.

If you stop and think, the different palates of Kodachrome, Velvia, Agfa,
etc, slide films, combined with universally accepted polarizing, warming,
enhancing, split ND or color grads, will produce completely and totally
different images of the exact same subject. Even gross under or over
exposure. But that's OK. Doing the exact same thing in Photoshop isn't. ???

Baloney. If it is sold or displayed as art, do whatever you want or need,
to make it work. It's art. If it represents reality, keep it reasonably real.

Art's book on Migrations, is an artistic statement, not a factual
statement. And Art is the first to tell you just that.

I like Art Wolfe and I like his work. He is one of the most dedicated
nature photographers we have today. And he is a "real" person. Nothing fake
here! And he will never manipulate an image, without telling you that it is
manipulated. And how it is manipulated. And why, if you want to know.