Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1998/12/02

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Subject: RE: [Leica] Art Wolfe's book
From: "B. D. Colen" <>
Date: Wed, 2 Dec 1998 14:21:49 -0500

It's really important in these discussions of photo purity to make clear
what we're trying to be pure about. I will be the first to admit that I see
no difference between scanning and using photoshop to crop, dodge, burn,
enhance contrast, etc., and doing the same thing in the darkroom. How many
of the all time great photos were printed without some darkroom
manipulation? As some one noted earlier, E. Eugene Smith, Patron Saint of
PJs, did a great deal of manipulation - consider, for example, the
incredible photo of the mad woman in the asylum in Haiti - and the fact that
the original photo had several subjects in it and a good deal of detail in a
background that was printed black.

Having said all that, I don't consider cloning elephants, zebras, or
politicians photography - it's photo based illustration.

I'm sure that some will think I'm spliting hairs, but I don't think I am.
There's a world of difference between visualizing a photo and then producing
a print that shows the viewer what you saw, and imagining a scene and using
technology to turn a photo into that scene.

B. D.

> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> []On Behalf Of Alexey Merz
> Sent: Wednesday, December 02, 1998 6:03 AM
> To:
> Subject: [Leica] Art Wolfe's book
> >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.
> As Kenneth Brower pointed out in the _Atlantic Monthly_, _Migrations_
> was not called _Pretty Patterns_. It had a natural history text about
> real animals and their real migrations. And it also had photos which
> were composites, in which, for example, the same individual zebra
> appeared twice (from different exposures), or the same exposure of
> a group of elephants was cloned and appeared multiple times in a
> picture of a single 'herd'. The book did not mention that these images
> were fabricated.
> Wolfe is an immensely talented and productive photographer. I vividly
> remember reading a profile of him in _American Photographer_ while I
> was in high school. The profile was accompanied by his splendid images
> of insects on plants, drenched in dew. The text described his excursions
> to a favorite 'dew field' near his home, and his angst when that site
> was developed. It quoted him railing against photographers who went out
> with a spray bottle and added 'dew' rather than finding it.
> Now I wonder: was he protesting too much?
> Is it worse to bring a spray bottle into the field than it is
> to 'breed' elephants in a photoshop layer?
> I really believe that photographers are responsible to their subjects,
> and I realize that this involves making difficult decisions. Should
> the food photographer baste that turkey in 10W40? I don't really care,
> because the turkey is dead. But Wolfe's images - because of their
> subject matter (Nature!), because of the photographer's previous public
> statements, and because of his insistence on very detailed and
> 'realistic' rendering, deserve to be held to a stricter standard than
> a turkey slathered in motor oil.
> At least, that's how this 'beholder's eye' sees things.
> ..........................................................................
> Alexey Merz | URL: | email: