I had some comments last post about the “Valley of the Shadow of Death”, by Fenton.
The whole truth in media becomes quite apparent when the historian looks at the two images and has to decide which is the accurate and which is the staged version.
Perhaps Rodger Fenton was the first of a long line of photo-journalists that have sought to tell the power of the story with the help of the image being a representation of the event rather than a simple photo reproduction from the moment.
Frank Hurley, the Australian photographer who accompanied E.Shackleton on the ill-fated “Endurance” expedition to the Antarctic also ‘dabbled’ with the moment. It is still hard to explain how he achieved the seemingly night time shot of the Endurance in the Ice. His diary indicates the use of many flashes and the difficulty of making the exposure.
Later Hurley would become a war photographer and many of his images, again, drive historians crazy. He made no bones about making double images, multiple printing techniques and montages. His famous shot of the rescue boat departing for help, is most likely the rescue party returning.
The images of soldiers on the way to the front is thought to be a reversed negative print.
And the one that really gets discussion going is the amazing moment of trench warfare with aircraft, shells exploding and troops advancing seemingly under fire.
Hurley openly stated it to be a multiple printed montage.
In the end he found,
“Oct. 1, 1917. Our Authorities here will not permit me to pose any pictures or indulge in any original means to secure them. They will not allow composite printing of any description, even though such be accurately titled nor will they permit clouds to be inserted in a picture.
As this absolutely takes all possibilities of producing pictures from me, I have decided to tender my resignation at once. I conscientiously consider it but right to illustrate to the public the things our fellows do and how war is conducted. These can only be got by printing a result from a number of negatives or reenactment“
A good selection of images is here.
Fast forward to Steve McCurry, he of the Afghan girl portrait on the cover of National Geographic. Steve’s later work was found to have ‘Photoshopped” in or out details of some stories and the furore of the net knew no bounds. So much so that he changed his style of photography to account for such story telling rather than image straight from camera. See one of many articles here
Many years back a well known soup manufacturer got into a boil over about marketing shots of its ‘famous’ Farmstyle Vegetable Soup that was ‘packed’ with vegetables. The photograph did in fact show a lovely warm inviting bowl of soup with the veggies all piled high out of the liquid.
However when it was prepared straight from the can, as per the instructions, the hapless cook was greeted with a bowl of liquid with a scant number of veggies sinking to the bottom of the bowl. The clever photographer had filled the studio bowl with glass marbles, and then scooped the veggies over the top and then slowly added just enough liquid to hide the marbles.
And let’s not forget any of the fast-food chains. The chances of getting a burger that resembles the bright crisp item in the photo display is minimal. Again the net is awash with dissatisfied consumers.
So it must be asked if I make some changes to an image, how much is legitimate. Now I’m not talking about Photoshopping Uncle Fred’s face into a daffodil, I’m hoping we are over that.
I’ve been working on some shots the past few weeks making Black and White portraits from a range of photos. I do it because I like the end result. If I share one, it is noticeable as after-all the creature has colour.
I’m not asking the viewer to suspend their credibility or influencing the understanding of the subject. Rather inviting them to explore the nuances of tone, shape, texture and from in a new way.
Perhaps the old adage from the Furphy Watertanker:
Good, better, best
Never let it rest,
Until your good is better,
And your better is best.
Is still a good working motto.