Assignment four – Real or Fake?

As I have noted throughout this part of the module, these exercises have been much more about the ethics of what has been done to the photos rather than the technical expertise to produce them. In this respect Fred Ritchin’s book, ‘After Photography‘ (2009) has influenced the way I have approached this assignment. I found myself wanting to illustrate more what I felt than trying to dupe the viewer in to seeing something  they assumed was true when it was not. This then altered the end point as per the brief which required me to produce a ‘photographic image‘ to illustrate a book or magazine. My final image became a vehicle for my feelings towards large scale image manipulation. It also represented my thoughts towards images being disingenuous and misleading the viewer. Further to this I decided that I wouldn’t take any photographs for this assignment. I would intentionally find images online to use for the end purpose. This was represent the considerable amount of images which are used and manipulated by individuals and companies and passed off as their own work. What was originally seen as laziness is now starting to be seen as the industry norm, photographers not even being given the courtesy of a request before their images are splashed over a marketing publication.

Book cover

For every amazing artistic image we see that has clearly been manipulated with no attempt to deceive the viewer, there are hundreds which endeavour to catch the viewer unawares. With my post regarding the Japanese photo-booths, I described how the insipid proliferation of this type of manipulation has started to become the de facto way to produce images. In the not-to-distant-future we will all end up looking like an approximation of ourselves, an avatar instead of flesh and blood. At this point Ritchin’s philosophical reasoning that we will no longer need a camera or photographer starts to ring true.

My final image shows a composite of several different faces, some male, some female but all found online. The decision to leave the images as block rectangles feeds from me not wanting to deceive the viewer. I wanted to get away from the ambiguity of so many images we see. The background has been made by extruding a flat red square and placed behind the main subject. The writing is in French for two reasons. Firstly, I don’t speak French so I am continuing the falsified nature of the image. Secondly, it adds a slightly pompous air to the cover making me sound more sophisticated than I actually am.

It would seem that I am coming down heavily on the side of the argument that no manipulation should be used on photographs. That would be downright hypocritical of me. I am as guilty as the next photographer of using manipulation in my work. I must say though, I do now find myself being drawn more towards trying to get the best straight out of my camera rather than relying on the software. Part of this is down to time constraints but part of this is consciously or unconsciously a response to the manipulation I am seeing around me more and more. I make note in another post of the constraints that older more traditional photographers possibly feel with the digital age stretching their ability to deal with other realities that it can bring. Maybe I am suffering from this in my outlook. Genuinely I feel there is room for digital-manipulation and for straight photography. The delineation between the two is my main cause for concern. The viewer enjoys being misled by photography and art in general when they understand that’s what happening. The issue with photography, as mentioned previously, is that the viewer still sees photography as the truth, far more than in any other discipline.

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