The Assumption of Manipulation


Yellow Rock, Utah (Velvia 100 4x5 w/ 210mm Nikkor)

I have done 3 different shows this year.  At each of these shows, I have had up to 5 large 40×50 prints.   During these shows, I have had quite a few people “accuse” me of digitally manipulating the images. It is not a derogatory accusation, but rather an inquisitive set of questions.  When I explain that I do not do any retouching that alters the integrity of the image, many of the people seem baffled.  Sure, some of the images have seen some very minor retouching (cloning out a tiny distracting weed, or other oversights from the moment of exposure).  However, I try to keep the final print as true to the original scene as possible. I will also encourage the people to look at the prints up close so they can see the grain.

If I shoot an image that is close, but not quite what I want it to be,  this image will not make it to print.  I will not spend the money to drum scan that image.  Why would I bother spending hundreds of dollars on a drum scan, only to dramatically alter the image?  I doubt that my 5 year old Mac G5 could even take such a substantial edit.  I’m pretty sure it would catch on fire. I only print the photos that were ready to print based on what I saw on the transparency.

In an age of digital manipulation, many people assume that a an interesting, bold photo is only that way because of photoshop trickery. When this is held in juxtiposition to the old mantra of  “a photo doesn’t lie,” it is obvious that things have changed.  I feel as though photography has lost credibility in the mind of the viewer.

This is why I go out of my way to keep the final prints very true to the scene.  I will take the time to prep a scene, and remove any sort of small distracting elements. Ultimately, the bulk of my Photoshop work is to try and maintain the original integrity of the original transparency.  I enjoy the process of presenting large photographs of nature, and then being able to tell the person that this is how the scene actually looks.

Maybe at my next show, I will label the prints with GPS coordinates for the doubters.

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