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Does photography record a moment or create it - discuss!

ketch 10 770 50 Turks And Caicos Islands
13 Aug 2009 4:23PM
I guess I am aware that many on EPZ tend to use a definition of photography based on its Greek root/meaning. Which is to do with recording light.

Its the word 'recording' here that somehow to me conveys a passivity, a sort of reactive status to the photographer that I think with the advent of digital photography may be erroded.

Cause its now possible to create a moment that was never there (even the merest hint of a clone brush does this to any image).

So the question is do we create the moment or are we simply idiot savants that point and click?

Just a thought - its August, its not quite the weekend and I am bored...



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DOGSBODY 9 1.4k 30 England
13 Aug 2009 6:42PM
Changing reality is not new to digital photography, it has been happening ever since film was first printed onto paper - just think back to those famous fairy pictures.

The most obvious change is black and white photography - that is certainly not real and skilled darkroom workers have always manipulated images by adding new skies and other elements to a picture. Airbrush work has also been used for many years as were sandwiched slides and numerous other techniques.

All digital has done is to make it easier for more people to manipulate their pictures.

Nothing ever stands still and new doors are opening all the time so who knows what we will be able to do in 20 years time.

Snapper Plus
13 4.3k 3 United States Outlying Islands
13 Aug 2009 6:49PM
Pull up a chair, grab yourself a drink and dive deep into the abyss! Wink
spaceman 14 5.3k 3 Wales
13 Aug 2009 6:56PM
I'm a very passive photographer.
Overread 9 4.1k 19 England
13 Aug 2009 7:10PM

So the question is do we create the moment or are we simply idiot savants that point and click?

Well Robert has already sort of removed the "Digital only" aspect to the talk and the debate on how much you can edit before you are creating rather than recording is one which is very hard to put defined lines onto in words, though many of us have a clearer understanding in our minds.

As for the view of creating or recording I think this has (except in the more extreme of cases) more do to with the thoughts before we press the shutter than when we open the image in editing. I think that for some photography is just a record device - to record a sight, event, scene before them. This is not to say that they lack creativity nor compositional skills, recording a scene well enough to convey select emotions or to show specific details is a whole skill in itself. As a staple though its reactionary photography more than anything else - the photographer generally, has less control (or even desire for control) over the scene, the light and the subject.

Whilst others are going to set out with a view not to mearly record the light, but to create something with it - maybe they blurr the flowing water, or the car light. Or heck take studio and portrait photography, creating images from the ground up is a staple of their line - creating a shot ot show off clothes, shoes, models, cars etc.... They are not mearly recording the light, they are controling the subject and the setup to get a result that they desire to create

For most of us I think we fit into both camps - flitting between the two as we desire, with one being the major over the other (though its always open to change)
ensign 10 212 1 United Kingdom
13 Aug 2009 7:14PM
It is my view hotography does both, now how's that for fence sitting. To clarifiy when a photography is taken that records that micro second in time, what is done afterwards can cause he issue. I have to agree from the invention we as photographers have manipulated the image, and created a "moment in time". But is that moment what the photgrapher imagined the scene to be at the time of taking.
Nigeyboy 10 880 United Kingdom
13 Aug 2009 8:17PM
Could prove to be an interesting debate!!

Digital, by its very nature is more flexible than film. How many of us leave the files just as they are before uploading to the site? Not many - me included. In fact this is the only unedited photo i have uploaded.

Whatever you think, the moment you press the shutter, you record that moment. It then down to the creator of that image to decide if they want to turn it into somethign different. There is of course a distinct line between those images that are just 'tweeked' to make it more like the actual scene, and those images that are adjusted beyond reality!!
macroman 15 15.3k England
13 Aug 2009 9:48PM
In a word ...Yes. Wink
Carabosse 15 41.1k 270 England
14 Aug 2009 12:25AM
If you shoot a digital image in RAW, you have to manipulate it before it even resembles reality. If you shoot JPEG you are allowing the camera to perform the manipulation.

Whichever you choose, the end result is not exactly what is recorded by the sensor, so can be regarded as "created" - if you so wish to regard it!
digicammad 15 22.0k 39 United Kingdom
14 Aug 2009 8:18AM

... but not at the same time.
macroman 15 15.3k England
14 Aug 2009 8:23AM
My point exactly. Wink

End of discussion. Wink Wink

(any recording medium cannot record every individual photon arriving at the film/sensor plane due to limitations of grain/pixel density, so ultimately the image is 'manipulated' anyway. )
ketch 10 770 50 Turks And Caicos Islands
14 Aug 2009 10:16AM
Not sure this is to do with resembling reality (although I know exactly what CB means) for a start an image is 2D the reality is 3D and almost inevitably the image is much smaller than the original (I am always reminded of a Woddy Allen film where he pulls out a photograph from his wallet and says this is my wife and kids and the other guy just says 'kinda small aren't they'). But rather is it to do with capturing 'the moment' - that may or may not have anything to do with reality - if you get my drift. The impressionist painters wanted to do this but thankfully our world doesn't actually look like their paintings (well without drug assistance at least!) but it may feel like them sometimes.

So I think CB's point is entirely correct but represents a very literal interpretation of the original question - which I hadn't really intended but equally interesting and debatable.

So I am still not sure if we are striving to record or create or is it a spectrum we tread. For example vernacular photography (crime scene recording, CCTV footage, passport photographs, speed cameras) which really do attempt to record the moment - with minimum 'manipulation or processing I guess (and hope!). Would these examples stand at one end of the spectrum whilst Digital Art in all its weird twisted wonderful non representational ways waited at the other end - most of our stuff rests somewhere between the two maybe?


fauxtography 13 6.6k 36
14 Aug 2009 11:01AM

Quote:Digital, by its very nature is more flexible than film. How many of us leave the files just as they are before uploading to the site?

Not strictly true....Apart from slides, pretty much every shot you got back on film had already been edited/tweaked. Either by eye or by a machine adding or removing density and colour balance. So they were not as "straight from camera" as you might think.

Dont forget that every film had different "properties" so some were vivid, some were muted, others were pushed certain colour ranges reds or greens. With film a lot of the "tweaking" was done by the time you got your prints back. With digital you have to do it yourself.
ketch 10 770 50 Turks And Caicos Islands
14 Aug 2009 11:17AM
I have to agree with Mark - also film stock came in different speeds and images could be printed on different papers. The variables were still there but maybe not quite as accessible to the end user, without a darkroom at least.

So how about if we gave a talented chimp a good quality automatic camera - would the images she/he took be considered as photographs and would they be reviewed as purely capturing a moment or could we argue that the chimp had in fact created the image (allbeit in a certain chimp style?).


ade_mcfade 14 15.2k 216 England
14 Aug 2009 11:33AM
doesn't "photography" mean

writing with light - graphos meaning "write"

graphology is the study of hand writing.

writing can therefore be more creative than just "recording" - you could just record events like Hansard, or get creative like poets - which has a very similar relation to the recordist photographer (say SOCO in the police) and the photo artist.

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