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The lounge Relax, take a break from photo and camera talk - have a chat about something else for a change. Just keep it clean and polite!

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  #16  
Old 2nd September 2008
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Zuiko Zuiko is offline
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Re: What is a Photograph?

As we have seen from the responses so far, this question can only really be answered subjectively and in accordance with each individual's personal code of conduct and integrity.

But let me tell you a (true) story that might help......

Last year I had my Bronica, loaded with Velvia, set up on a tripod while I carefully composed my image of a churchyard. Eventually I was aware of another presence just behind me (glad it wasn't dark!) My silent observer picked a moment when it must have seemed appropriate to interupt and asked politely but with a wary tone of suspicion, "What type of digital camera is that?"

His whole counternance lightened considerably when I informed him that it was not digital, but good old film. In our ensuing conversation he admitted he was not a photographer himself and, out of curiosity, I asked him why he was not in favour of digital imaging.

It transpired that he was a member of a local historical society which regularly used vintage photographs to cross reference details in order to date them. He had a particular interest in local transport history. He gave me the example of a photograph of a certain bus at a bus station and said that it was possible to date the event fairly accurately from the type of bus and therefore validate the date of certain other features and details of the scene (I think - by then I was starting to lose the will to live!) But next to the bus station was the wall of a bank in which an ATM was sited. He had seen one version of the photograph which had been scanned and the ATM digitally removed, presumably for artistic reasons.

At this point he became quite animated (at this point you, too, are probably losing the will to live but why should I be the only one to bear the scars?) and complained that such an act could destroy the whole validity of the dating process as one of the factors they would check would be the date the ATM was installed!

For this reason he prefered to rely upon negatives or transparencies, rather than prints, if they were available and certainly not digital files. If you have got this far, more fool you (I had to politely listen, but in that chap's mind there was absolutely no doubt at what point an image ceases to be a photograph!

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  #17  
Old 3rd September 2008
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Re: What is a Photograph?

I feel for you John, but I'm glad you managed to stay awake long enough to hear out your transport buff. Having said that, I believe the guy does have an entirely valid point:

At the risk of sending you off to sleep again, I would like to elucidate on my train of thought yesterday.

In my day job, I take a lot of technical photographs for inclusion in technical reports, detailing corrosion and other defects in yachts and ships. Many of these reports will pass across lawyer’s desks, and some will end up as expert evidence in a Court of Law.

Until relatively recently, the Courts in this country would not accept digital images, but this is no longer the case; although copies of the originals must be kept, and if a digital camera was used, a statement must be included to say that the image has not been manipulated.

Ergo, any photograph that I take must show the 'feature' or 'defect' that I am reporting as clearly and as accurately as possible, and in true context. This means that I can use filters to make a visible defect more visible in the photograph, although I will always state that a particular filter or technique was used. I can also adjust levels, colour balance and contrast, and use reasonable levels of sharpening, but I cannot add a defect that was not there, or remove a defect for artistic effect.

Furthermore, there is no reason why I should not use black and white, provided that the above rules are followed. Likewise cropping is allowed, provided that it does not remove relevant detail, or give undue prominence to the feature being photographed.

So, coming back to the original question, in my view, any image that does not conform to the above rules is no longer a photograph. In this context, I would submit that the term 'graph' is crucial, as it implies a faithful plotting of the subject scene (using light sensitive materials). Ergo, the moment a photograph ceases to be a faithful representation of the original scene it ceases to be a photograph in my view, and becomes either a fake or a work of art. Furthermore, I would submit that the methods used to create any such 'fake' are entirely irrelevant in this context.

To bring this discussion back down to earth, what about a typical family snapshot? Removing red-eye is acceptable, as this is an unwanted effect caused by on-camera flash. However, removing the spots from a teenagers face makes the photograph a fake, as it no longer represents the original.
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Old 3rd September 2008
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Re: What is a Photograph?

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Originally Posted by Naughty Nigel View Post
For me, the answer to this question is quite straightforward: A photograph is in the form of a print or transparent slide; recorded by a camera on light-sensitive material.
While that part of the statment is the true defination of a photograph and the original question was "what is a photograph" then by that very definition as soon as you print it on a inkjet printer or display it on a monitor it is ceases to be a photograph and bemomes a "digital image" and the argument ceases to exist!

Also bear in mind that people like AJ Mortimer and Frank Meadow Sutcliff were not above dropping a new sky into there seascapes if needed using plate glass negatives and this photograher http://www.uelsmann.com/ has been doing with negatives and a enlarger that some cannot even do with photoshop and slide sandwiching was a commen thing to do also.

Yet there was never this amount of debate on is it photography then, I think that this type thinking is just something that has been exagerated by the digital age. To my mind there are two types of photgraphy ,record photography and pictorial photography whatever the medium.

Now here is a radical thought could it be in those days when the majority of photographers could not afford/have the room for a darkroom so were happy to except and admire it with the comforting thought if I could afford/ have the space for one i could do it to. Now in the digital age where everyone has a level playing field the cry of "its not photgraphy" is more of bias toward those that can do it well from those that can't. Sorry if thats stirred the pot.
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  #19  
Old 3rd September 2008
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Re: What is a Photograph?

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Originally Posted by Paul_S View Post
While that part of the statment is the true defination of a photograph and the original question was "what is a photograph" then by that very definition as soon as you print it on a inkjet printer or display it on a monitor it is ceases to be a photograph and bemomes a "digital image" and the argument ceases to exist!

Also bear in mind that people like AJ Mortimer and Frank Meadow Sutcliff were not above dropping a new sky into there seascapes if needed using plate glass negatives and this photograher http://www.uelsmann.com/ has been doing with negatives and a enlarger that some cannot even do with photoshop and slide sandwiching was a commen thing to do also.

Yet there was never this amount of debate on is it photography then, I think that this type thinking is just something that has been exagerated by the digital age.

Now here is a radical thought could it be in those days when the majority of photographers could not afford/have the room for a darkroom so were happy to except and admire it with the comforting thought if I could afford/ have the space for one i could do it to. Now in the digital age where everyone has a level playing field the cry of "its not photgraphy" is more of bias toward those that can do it well from those that can't. Sorry if thats stirred the pot.

I'm not sure that I agree with your conclusions.

I believe that two things have happened: Firstly, we all know that photographs can very easily be manipulated nowadays, and we know that the press in particular are not above using these techniques to sell copy.

Secondly, and I suspect, more importantly, we are far more cynical nowadays, and certainly much more willing to question 'professionals' now than in the past, when we were generally happy to accept almost anything that we were told. (Call it blind faith if you like).

We also travel more, and are much more likely to see the original scene than our grandparents, so again we have more reason to compare and question.

Which reminds me: I went for a walk up Roseberry Topping one frosty morning earlier this year, hoping to photograph one of the dry stone walls leading to the summit, (in a similar style to a well known local ‘tog). When I got there, I found that one of the local farmers had added a barbed wire fence to the top of the dry stone wall, rather destroying the image that I had planned. Which all goes to show that planning and prior knowledge are at least as important as equipment!
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  #20  
Old 3rd September 2008
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Re: What is a Photograph?

Quote:
Firstly, we all know that photographs can very easily be manipulated nowadays,
But people with their own darkrooms have always been able to manipulate images to get the results they want. It's only those dependant on third-party processing that haven't.

Digital means that we can all edit pictures if we want to, it puts us on a more equal footing too, because not everybody can afford all the various filters and so on but those who know how to do it can replicate the effect digitally.

Quote:
and we know that the press in particular are not above using these techniques to sell copy.
And that's when they get caught out, because we expect the media to show us the truth, warts and all, without too much emphasis on either the quality of the image or whether it follows compositional rules.
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