The Integrity of a Photograph December 10 2007, 0 Comments

This past week, I read an article in a local newsletter. The intent of the article was to entice would be photographers into taking a Photo Shop class. The title was, “Those Lying, Cheating Photographs!”

As a film trained photographer, what I sometimes consider an ancient generation, I can say with all the honesty and integrity in the world, that my photographs are really mine. I have not invented or created my images through the art of technology. In fact, until two years ago, I was still using negative and slide film. I finally moved into digital because custom printing houses have all but disappeared.

As I read this most offensive title, I thought back on my first lesson in photography…What does a photographer do?

The answer? A photographer documents. He or she does not alter or create a reality which does not exist and then represent it as reality or represent it as an image shot in the field. (Yes, I am sadly aware that we live in an altered world of reality: just pick up a magazine!)

We all know that the traditional darkroom has long been a tool for creative souls such as Adams and Weston. We have learned the art of the darkroom though them. But technology has given us a latitude that enables those able to master the fine motor skills needed at the keyboard, the ability to alter images in ways that produce an end result so far from the truth that we are left to wonder about the integrity of the image.

The objective of any photographic software is to PROCESS the images recorded and simulate darkroom enhancements. The principles of light still apply. While I have nothing against a bit of enhancement, I take issue with those who want to turn our industry into a questionable profession. We should be outraged at those, like the person who wrote the above article, for making our profession a joke. True photographers work hard for the images they capture. We spend hours just waiting for the right lighting conditions. We spend weeks or months on a shoot.

The images we remember most are those that document: soldiers coming home from war; the fire fighters erecting the American flag at ground zero; the shot of Jessica McClure as she was pulled from the well after being under ground for three days; the faces of Hurricane Katrina; the birth of a child; a bride and groom just after they are pronounced, “man and wife”; the landscape of your favorite place. These are all unadulterated, unedited, pure images that are burned into our memories because they are our reality. The above title is an insult to all those who work so hard to share our world and our true reality in photographs.