*Lately I have been involved in a discussion of photography’s merits on Errol Morris’ NYT blog, Zoom. Following a conversation between Morris and Heny Farid, an expert on digital photography and professor at Dartmouth, about amongst other side notes, the digital manipulation of the Iranian missiles, I made the following comment… which drew the following responses… which interested me, maybe you?*
I have a question regarding the nature of true photography versus fauxtagraphy. Aren’t all photographs, by definition, an altered view of reality? One Photoshop technique that mesmorizes me is High Definition Range… in which the same photo is taken over and over while the photographer adjusts the exposure values (EV)… then all these similar but differently lighted photos are combined in Photoshop to produce a High Definition Range photo that captures much more of the spectrum of light that the human eye might see if a viewer was standing where the photos were taken. This range is not possible in just a single photo, because of the inherent limitations of a camera’s lens versus a human eyeball. In a sense, that means even with the purest intentions, that every photo is by definition an altered rendering of reality, vis-a-vis those limitations, and the choices the photographer makes in creating the photograph. The same reason that all photographs can be considered “art.”
Anyway, reading this conversation sure got me thinking… great post Errol. Thank you,
— Posted by 3rdarm
Arthur Mullen makes a good point in his response. We have all seen photographs of humming birds in flight, their wings outstretched and seemingly motionless. The high speed camera shutter offers us a glimpse of reality not available to the naked eye. Would any of us consider this an example of “fauxtography?”
— Posted by Walter Gajewski
@6: I think you’re talking about High Dynamic Range photography. In fact, HDR can more closely approximate what the eye sees than conventional film or digital photography can. The inherent limitations of the photographic process as regards the range of luminance that can be captured within a single image results in images with greater contrast than what we can perceive with our eyes. So it’s a mistake to compare HDR to vision the way you have; HDR certainly gives a result that is very different from what we have been trained to regard as a realistic image by decades of exposure to photography, but it can (depending on how it is used) result in an image that is very similar to what you can perceive with your eyes alone.
Of course it is a manipulation, any recording of reality inherently involves manipulation.
— Posted by Eugene Mosier
In reply to Arthur Mullen in re HDR (reply 6), the technique of compressing a high contrast image has been done with film for over 70 years by the likes of Ed Weston and Ansel Adams using The Zone System, in order to hold highlight and shadow details.
Instead of shooting multiple sheets of film and then compositing them in the enlarger, though, the Zone System requires the photographer to meter to several spots and determine which brightness “zones” he wants to place them in for the final print, jotting down exposure notes with each film sheet, including — Importantly — shooting ISO for the film.
Then, once the photographer gets back to the lab, he develops the negative, but with two degrees of freedom: The developer used, and the time in the particular developer, all in order to map the image tones to the dynamic range of the film.
The Zone System is still widely used in film photography, but with two caveats:
1) It only works for B&W film, as E-6 (color slide) and C-41 (color negative) film developing must be developed to very tight tolerances, else colors shift all over the place;
2) This technique is almost always performed with sheet film, as the entire roll of film would have to be exposed similarly, as each exposure will be developed identically.
— Posted by Dan Schwartz