Wednesday, February 10, 2010


More on photo manipulation

Self PortraitSeveral months ago, I posted an item in which I wondered about the artistic value of digital manipulation of photos. “Is it art,” I mused, when you click a button and have some bit of software alter your photo for you?

Then, too, are the other sorts of alterations that we collectively call “Photoshopping”, regardless of whether Adobe Photoshop was actually the software used. People add or remove items from photos, put different faces on bodies — eliminate power lines, add rockets, and put John Kerry and Jane Fonda at the same peace rally, when they were never there together.

Some software researchers have taken this to the next level. They’ve developed a program that will rearrange the primary images in photos to make the photos more pleasing, aesthetically. With the click of a button, the software will analyze a photo, find the major shapes, and move and resize them to give the photo a better sort of feng shui.

What more could one want?

From an artistic point of view, if you didn’t have the eye (or the angle) for getting the right shot, hey, you’ll soon be able to have software compensate. Does that make you a better artist?

From the point of view of documenting reality, you’ll be able to alter “reality” more easily than ever. And, consequently, we’ll be able to trust that what you’re showing us really looked like that... even less than ever before.

We used to say that the camera doesn’t lie. Nowadays, it does little but.

[As for me, I limit what I do to my photos to cropping and minor lighting adjustments (brightness and contrast). I think anything else is a kind of distortion that I’m not interested in. I don’t expect everyone to agree with that, but it’s what I want for my photographs.]


Ray said...

In the non-Photoshopped category, this item appeals to me.

OK, it isn't art, but I like visual illusions, and I think this one is very clever.

Barry Leiba said...

Yes, I saw that on BoingBoing yesterday. Very cool.

Michelle said...

It's a hard question isn't it, whether something is art or not. The only answer I have is, "it depends". I do a fair bit of altering on photos, how much depends. I do a lot of portraits so some of them have a lot of colour alteration and contrast, other shots are usually resized and that's about it. How is this relevant? I don't know, but there is so much visual art now that you can't dismiss and entire.. er technique? With some photos the manipulation is most of the art, you could argue that then it's not really a photo but it's meant as art and you can say you don't like it, or it's crap but it's still art. Sorta. I could go on but I'd just say more of the same so I'll just stick with the vague, "it depends".