Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Did It Really Look Like That?

There is one question that I've gotten more than any other from people looking at my photography: "Is that what it really looked like?" This is a question that has so much baggage attached to it, that it needs to be unpacked before I can answer it. This blog post is an attempt at that unpacking.

Motivating this question is a sense of incredulity about the picture in question. Usually, I take it as a compliment, understanding it to mean, "Wow, I've never seen anything this beautiful or interesting myself. How lucky you were to be there with a camera to capture it." However, another way to take this question is that it is calling into question the authenticity of the photograph. Slyly, the questioner is suggesting that the picture isn't an accurate representation of the original subject. In this digital age where Photoshop and similar programs make it extremely easy to manipulate images (Iranian missiles anyone?), it's hard not to understand this suspicion.

A full discussion of the complications Photoshop adds to this issue will have to wait for another post to do it justice. For photography generally, though, the issue surrounding authenticity is intimately tied into the concept of what the original "really looked like" and that ultimately is a question of phenomenology, and as such, I can't answer it. I have no idea what *anything* looks like. I only know what my senses tell me about it. Hell, if you want to get really into it, you can ask whether we know with certainty that "it" is there at all outside of our perceptions of it. In this way, I have no way of knowing what it looks like in "reality," but only what it looked like to me at the time.

Let's look at a specific example. I took this photo last summer at Coney Island:





GOLDEN TICKETS (original)





GOLDEN TICKETS (processed)


Now, as you can see, there's quite a difference between these two images. I didn't crop this image in the processing stage, but I did do some color correction which resulted as you can see in a much more vibrant photo.

Now, you could say, "Aha! This *isn't* what it really looked like. I *knew* it!" but such a supposition implies that the camera blindly and completely captures what was actually there to be captured. Instead, the technology itself in getting that original RAW image is working all kinds of voodoo on the subject, not the least of which is its transmuting the subject from three dimensions to two which results in various shifts in the visual geometry of the original subject.

Along with that, the sensor doesn't capture light and color in the same way the eye does. It can capture spectra of light that the human eye can't even see, for example, and so this original file is only an approximation of what the *camera* "sees," not the photographer. Therefore, that image straight from the camera doesn't resemble what I remember seeing nearly as much as the final, processed image does.

So I ask you, "Is that what it really looked like?" Depends on who you ask, me or the camera. For me, the artist, I can only say that the final, processed version is my best approximation of my memory of the subject on that day. It captures not only the physical actuality of the subject as closely as possible, but it also is my best attempt at capturing how that subject made me feel because ultimately that is what photography is all about. A photograph shouldn't just document the physical reality of the subject, but should attempt to communicate its emotional and subjective reality as well. That is my very long, and I'm sure, incomplete answer to a very short question. If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, I'd love to hear from you. Please comment below. Thanks and take care.

RAV

24 comments:

Jacob said...

Great blog post. Something that's always bugged me. There's a huge difference between something like color and contrast fixing, and, say, putting Oprah's head on a slimmer body.

And now, for homework, diagram this sentence:

"Instead, the technology itself in getting that original RAW image is working all kinds of voodoo on the subject, not the least of which is its transmuting the subject from three dimensions to two which results in various shifts in the visual geometry of the original subject."

Matt Morris said...

Welcome back to the blogosphere!

Riley said...

Sorry, Jacob. Complexity is just how I roll. Thanks, Matt. I don't know how you survived without me.

Anonymous said...

codelyoko background music how music can influence persons mood
how to transfer music to iphone listen to kids music music converter for protected files funny girl songs music
tap dance music hoctor

Anonymous said...

must look at this knock off chanel handbags zLYDFzMR [URL=http://www.fake-chanel--bags.org/]fake chanel bags[/URL] online shopping UDNJXUOt [URL=http://www.fake-chanel--bags.org/ ] http://www.fake-chanel--bags.org/ [/URL]

Anonymous said...

must check [URL=http://jacket-dresses.net/]moncler outlet[/URL] for less KKXPIyGc [URL=http://jacket-dresses.net/ ] http://jacket-dresses.net/ [/URL]

Anonymous said...

cheap [URL=http://e--store.com/]outlet coach[/URL] to take huge discount psXbZMfB [URL=http://e--store.com/ ] http://e--store.com/ [/URL]

Anonymous said...

Signing off on so- called novations can take an hour, deterring investors from the trades with the Frankfurt-based institution, they said.. [url=http://www.michaelkorsehandbags.com]http://www.michaelkorsehandbags.com[/url]
[url=http://www.uggbootonlinesale.co.uk]ugg boots outlet[/url] mhlgfeu tsclbfn [url=http://www.michaelkorshangbagsshop.com]michael michael kors jet set medium travel tote[/url] zdwxvkw [url=http://www.uggssnowbootssale.com]uggs outlet[/url] uewwjie
qrvlbup [url=http://www.beatsbydresoutletsa.com]beats by dre sales[/url]

Anonymous said...

My aides tell me what to do and what to say. [url=http://www.michaelkorsehandbags.com]michael kors sale[/url]
[url=http://www.uggbootonlinesale.co.uk]ugg outlet[/url] wtujofm tclpqzs [url=http://www.michaelkorshangbagsshop.com]michael kors sale[/url] stkelet [url=http://www.uggssnowbootssale.com]cheap uggs boots[/url] pzdmpps
wkqount [url=http://www.beatsbydresoutletsa.com]beats by dre[/url]

Anonymous said...

The common loon still provides a link to the origin of self. [url=http://www.michaelkorsehandbags.com]michael kors[/url]
[url=http://www.uggbootonlinesale.co.uk]ugg outlet[/url] hqncaxv yyipmjj [url=http://www.michaelkorshangbagsshop.com]cheap michael kors shoulder bags[/url] ijibpdf [url=http://www.uggssnowbootssale.com]uggs sale[/url] yrlogqi
duxwlwq [url=http://www.beatsbydresoutletsa.com]beats by dre sales[/url]

Anonymous said...

get nNNNyMAT [URL=http://www.camera--lenses.com/]canon ef 75-300mm[/URL] for promotion code qUoHJpuA [URL=http://www.camera--lenses.com/ ] http://www.camera--lenses.com/ [/URL]

Anonymous said...

wxcn [url=http://www.bootssay.com]ugg boots outlet[/url]
ugg lexie certainly doesn't have any issue going over her levels of competition


magx [url=http://www.bootswould.com]sale ugg[/url]
This vintage trunk is cut in diploma that brings together your complete well-designed requires and concurrently look good also. The degree makes your toes cozy and comfy constantly. For the reason that are have to for winter weather. Your winter weather assortment will be not whole that don't have them. Necessities such as wide lace up traditional shoes or boots which not just offers a modern appear and also provides uncomplicated on / off. It possesses a total-feed buckskin second and windproof celebration(TM) membrane that Inchair ventsIn . dampness from inside the sneaker which reassure durability and means they are water-proof. Anyone can head out in snowfall with the belief that feet won't get sweating or stinky as these boot styles are always going to ensure that they're dried up. If you use Direct Venting(TM) amazing and trademarked technological know-how , numerous tiny holes can break that allow work to vent out out from the fabric effortlessly. They've got a wonderful appear and is used for style far too.


prqx [url=http://www.bootssay.com]ugg boots sale[/url]
When you have looked for the perfect stores to obtain your young boys wintertime boot styles, minute to think about will be the particular choice of your kid. At this, it resulted in the pair of boots ought to be at ease however something that your very little adventurer will cherish. Besides the style, comfort, the areas and where your young boy make use of it is going to participate in a key point. This is due to the pair of boots should be suitable to the landscapes and landscaping when he'll almost certainly play, so that you can make sure outmost security for his minor ft. By contemplating these aspects, you can have simple steps ahead of selecting the perfect males winter season shoes for your tiny tike.

Anonymous said...

payday loan http://2applyforcash.com/ malNuankSlulvag [url=http://www.2applyforcash.com]Payday Loans Online[/url] ScefillencE Payday Loans online payday loans direct lenders If you're experiencing any windows 7 internet problems, supplement his main source of income.Think of how nice it would be to that teens, kids, girls, boys or anyone to make money online.

Anonymous said...

Fine wаy of telling, and niсe post tο get ԁata гegагding my preѕеntation
subject, ωhich i аm goіng to ρresent in collеge.
Here is my web-site - quick loans

Anonymous said...

top [url=http://www.c-online-casino.co.uk/]uk bonus casino[/url] hinder the latest [url=http://www.realcazinoz.com/]realcazinoz[/url] autonomous no store perk at the foremost [url=http://www.baywatchcasino.com/]baywatchcasino.com
[/url].

Anonymous said...

Υοur ѕtyle iѕ unique іn compaгison to οthег
peoρle I've read stuff from. I appreciate you for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I will just bookmark this blog.
My web page ; 1 month loan

Anonymous said...

диеты похудения , http://www.best-dieta-2013.ru/#ShousDesDuh диета

Anonymous said...

Terгific ωorκ! That is thе type оf infо that are supposed tο bе sharеd аcross the internet.
Shame on the ѕearch engines for now not pοsitionіng thiѕ poѕt higher!
Come on over and talk over with my web ѕіte .
Thank you =)

my blog: payday loans

Anonymous said...

Fantastiс goоds from you, man. I haѵe undегѕtand your stuff prevіouѕ to and you're just too wonderful. I really like what you have acquired here, really like what you are stating and the way in which you say it. You make it enjoyable and you still care for to keep it sensible. I cant wait to read much more from you. This is really a terrific website.

My page: small loans

Anonymous said...

Hermes BeltsHermes Belts fnkt 2013 Hermes BagsKelly Hermes Handbags aqfy

Anonymous said...

geotorelxz consolidate credit card debt
credit card debt
consolidating credit card debt

Anonymous said...

For just a small investment decision, you receive almost everything you should
obtain the effects you wish.

Look into my page; http://www.getfitnstrong.com/bowflex-dumbbells/

Anonymous said...

Hi there matеs, nіce paragraph аnd faѕtidious urgіng commented here, I am reаlly enjoying by thеse.


Feel freе to surf to my website Instant Payday Loans

Anonymous said...

We're capable to socialize when we are working out.

Here is my page; bowflex 552