But Is It Real



I've been working this last week with Lens Work Alumnus Jack Curran because he and I are teaching workshop this weekend as part of the out of Chicago in depth virtual seminars that are happening this weekend and in preparation for that workshop, I've been spending a lot of time working with Jack Looking at his work and in particular looking at a lot of the before and after images, what the camera captured versus what he made in Photoshop Light Room in order to create a little bit of artwork from sometimes a pretty bland camera capture and that has me thinking about photography's tenuous relationship with the truth and what we do that is to say the power of what we can do with software. I I came into this idea about photography's tenuous relationship with truth when I visited. Yosemite for the first time in the early nineteen eighties to attend a workshop. Of course, before I had absorbed everything that ansel Adams did in terms of Yosemite and I. I was so inspired by the Yosemite that he presented his photographs and books that I. Thought this is this is fantastic. Going to be a wonderful opportunity to go see the place for myself. But I have to say that when I arrived in Yosemite what I experienced standing there looking at half dome and El Capitan and a Cetera was not at all what I had seen in ansel Adams photographs and I realize that he had made something in his artwork. That was not real in the sense that if you were standing there next to ansel Adams and looking at what it was that he photographed, and then comparing that to his eventual photographic artwork, you would realize how much difference he had created through the craft of photography and the aesthetic choices that he made when he was processing his film and his prints. And I became aware that there is different kinds of. Photographic truth I guess is the way I would call it. My first reaction was to be a little disappointed because. I thought I was going to see something spectacular that only exists in a photograph and so I kind of felt like had been a little bit hoodwinked. But. The more deeply I thought about this in the subsequent decades the more I've come to realize that there are different kinds of truth and one kind of truth might be what I characterize as the physical truth or maybe more accurately the camera truth. That is to say what the camera sees is one thing and that's one kind of truth. And that's the kind of truth that we really insist on in documentary photography and in evidentiary photography and those kinds of things. But rarely do we see that as part of fine art photography? The great challenge that all of us fine art photographers have is not to merely make a copy of what the world looks like or even to accept what the camera tells us and the film. Tells us that the world looks like. But rather work we're interested in different kind of truth. And generally speaking I use in my own way of thinking anyway, the term emotional peak that that's what we're looking for is some kind of emotional peak. We don't want to have every day life presented to us because we can see that for ourselves every single day, what we is something that's a more extraordinary experience we want an emotional peak. So we want think of ansel Adams in Yosemite. Again, we want that high contrast, absolutely spectacular cloud moment of unique and wonderful weather with everything sort of. Dolled up for the artwork. Of course, there are photographers who want just exactly the opposite of that. Think of Lee freelander and Louis Baltin some of that end of the scale of fine art photography but in terms of the more publicly acceptable. Ansel. Adams Edward Weston, those kind of people. That kind of photography is more geared towards some sort of emotional peak. And generally speaking that's achieved by. Pushing everything a little harder than it really is. When the camera captures it that is to say, it's generally we're gonNA push the contrast a little bit we're going to. Increase the. Vibrancy of the collars so that they're more read those fall leaves than they really appear in real life. So it's kind of a hyper reality if you will. And the purpose of that kind of hyper reality. Is I think to. Prompt in us, an emotional response that. Probably. Well. Biologists and physicians and whatnot could explain this better. But I think it has something to do with the release of endorphins and all those feel good hormones that we have in our human system that give us a little jolt of excitement and hyper reality in terms of experiencing

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