Tuscany, Italy, 2002, Canon EOS 1Ds, 100-400mm zoom at 275mm
1/1250 second @ f6.3, ISO 800, hand-held, no filter
Is it a painting or is it a photograph? When this photograph was first exhibited in 2003, people would question its derivation. It also polarised people, challenging some and inspiring others.
As discussed many times in this book, there seem to be two schools of thought when it comes to photography. For some, a photograph should be a realistic depiction of what was in front of the camera. For others, a photograph can be realistic or interpretive – there are no arbitrary limits.
Over the years I have thought a lot about this distinction and why it should matter. For the people who believe a photograph should be ‘real’, the content of the image needs to represent reality because, in their limited outlook, that’s what photography does. Without reality, there is nothing to photograph. And if you want to create something different to reality, well, that’s what painting is for.
I have never looked upon photography this way. I am only interested in the image as a form of expression. Sometimes the image is realistic, but equally it can be interpretive. Unless I am working for a client with specific requirements, I don’t see any need to limit myself to one school of thought or another, so when people ask me whether it is photography or art, I guess the only answer for these people is, “It’s art”.
Which is a pity, because realistic photography can be every bit as ‘artistic’ as interpretive work. The ‘art’ of capture, timing, framing and exposure are just part of what a photographer brings to his or her subject. Add the photographer’s influence on hair, make-up, costume, styling, propping, posing, expression, lighting and location, and I believe the act of capturing a ‘realistic’ photograph can be every bit as expressive and artistic as one that is imagined and created with the help of post-production.
To say a photograph should only be ‘captured’ as a record of reality is incredibly limiting and not something that The New Tradition can accept. It is
also naive because the history of photography has always included images that are the product of the imagination.
This rural scene in southern Tuscany was ‘discovered’ late one afternoon on a back road. The bare winter landscape with its recently ploughed fields simplified the shapes, creating the perfect backdrop for the farmhouse. I was a little concerned that the car was too modern, but now some 15 years after it was taken, the car is starting to look a little older and in keeping with the ‘rustic’ mood.
In terms of post-production, the challenge was to balance the foreground with the background. The background has interesting side-lighting revealing the shape and folds of the land, but the foreground lies in shadow and is relatively detailless. The solution was to introduce some light and create the folds in the furrowed field. A curves adjustment layer is added, lightening up the field. A mask is then added to hide the adjustment, then a white brush used to ‘paint in’ the light and shape as required. An elegant solution in The New Tradition.
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