1. The usages of two verbs that refer to clicking the shutter have undergone some changes in recent years. There has long been a minor debate about whether it's more appropriate to say that a photographer "takes" a photograph or "makes" a photograph. In any situation (like FoundView) where "captured" photographs are being compared to "synthesized" ones, the debate obviously takes on new meaning. To reflect the "captured by the camera when the shutter was clicked" nature of decisive-moment photography, in this web site "take" is used for the clicking of the shutter, and "make" refers to post-shutter manipulations (of whatever kind) on the way to the final photograph.
2. This web site makes frequent reference to "single-click photographs" and "a single photograph made with a single click of the shutter." Although to minimize awkward and distracting grammatical structure it is not explained with each usage, these phrases can also refer to photographs made with multiple clicks of the shutter in cases when the content of the subject being photographed remains unchanged ("down to every last grain or pixel") between clicks of the shutter. (See F-22, F-20, and F-21 for further amplification.)
3. The term "moment," used frequently in this web site to refer to when the shutter is clicked, obviously can include exposures that last longer than a fraction of a second. View camera photographers often make exposures of several minutes or more, and in fact the term "moment" can refer even to years (e.g., "The U.S. is, at this moment in history, the most affluent country in the world"). It is generally agreed in photography that "the decisive moment" (discussed especially in E-10 and E-12) is the instant when the photographer decides to click the shutter and record the scene with the camerawhether the exposure itself lasts a fraction of a second or many minutes.
4. All brand names and product names mentioned on this web site signaled by ® are registered trademarks of their respective owners.
Main page: The William Langenheim quote was incorporated in a daguerrotype exhibit at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, May 1998.
Main page: The Francis Bacon quote is from Dorothea Lange's Photographs of a Lifetime (Aperture/Viking Penguin, 1982)
A-5: Note that the distinction outlined in A-5 (manipulating "tones" vs. manipulating "forms and shapes") is subscribed to both by those who manipulate content in photographs and by those who don't. For example, nature columnists Tim Davis and Renee Lynn, in an article explaining how they digitally manipulate their nature photographs, write that they "always clearly label as composited or manipulated" any images that have been manipulated "more than simple lightening, darkening, burning, or dodging" (Popular Photography, May 1999). (See also E-7.)
B-1: An example of how digital manipulation is pitched to amateur photographers: "Unfortunately, photographers frequently don't notice distracting elements in their shots when they're taking the pictures . . . The best way to get rid of distracting elements once they're in a composition is digitally. Prior to digital imaging, only skilled airbrush artists were able to remove most distracting elements. That often took hours of tedious work. But times have changed. With the wide assortment of sophisticated [digital] image-editing applications available today, even beginners have the necessary tools to quickly eliminate many of the distracting elements of a shot. . . . It's a simple procedure." Wendell Benedetti, "Digital Editing: How to Remove Distracting Elements in a Composition," Petersen's Photographic, March 1999 issue. The article makes no mention of alerting the viewer that the realistic-looking photographs shown and discussed in the article have undergone manipulations of content.
B-1: The quote that the digital revolution "eliminates our trust" in photographs is by Tim Fitzharris in his book Virtual Wilderness (Amphoto Books, 1998).
B-2 (and E-13): The Greek root of the word "photography"graphein + photos ("drawing with light")is from Encyclopedia Britannica.
B-3: The New York Times' policies on photographic manipulation were provided at FoundView's request in March 1999. The Associated Press statement on image manipulation was issued by the organization's Executive Photo Editor in November 1990 and is reprinted in Truth Needs No Ally by Howard Chapnick (University of Missouri Press, 1994). Newsweek's policy on altering tones but not subject matter was printed in the December 8, 1997 edition of Newsweek as a "clarification" after the controversy over the magazine's digital straightening of the teeth of Bobbi McCaughey, the Iowa mother who gave birth to septuplets. Newsweek's full statement read as follows: "In an attempt to lighten shadows on last week's cover photograph of Mr. and Mrs. Kenny McCaughey, our photo technicians altered the appearance of Bobbi McCaughey's teeth. While we often correct color values and contrast levels in pictures we use, it is not Newsweek's policy to change or misrepresent the subject matter in any way. We regret the error."
B-5: The National Geographic "pyramid" cover was dated February 1982; the Time magazine "O.J. Simpson" cover was dated June 27, 1994; the Newsweek "septuplets' mother" cover was dated December 1, 1997. Note that the Time "O.J." cover was not an indisputable case of undisclosed manipulations to a realistic-looking photograph: on the Contents page of that issue, the cover image was clearly credited as a "photo-illustration." This distinction was lost on many readers, who apparently believed that the cover was an unaltered photograph, and Time's managing editor later said that "if there was anything wrong with the cover, in my view, it was that it was not immediately apparent that this was a photo-illustration rather than an unaltered photograph; to know that, a reader had to turn to our contents page or see the original [undarkened] mug shot on the opening page of the story." (See "To our Readers," Time, July 4, 1994.)
Even five years later, the phrase "photo-illustration" is not in the common vernacular, and many members of the viewing public do not understand that "photo-illustration" often means "a realistic-looking photograph in which content was manipulated." This confusion probably stems from newsmagazines' universal use of photos as illustrations, rendering the combination phrase more redundant than enlightening. A clearer term for these kinds of images would be helpful to viewers and readers. As the Time controversy makes clear, the term "photo-illustration" by itself is not sufficient to prevent deception of viewers, and FoundView does not consider the term a satisfactory "alert" to viewers that content has been manipulated in a realistic-looking photograph. (As an aside, the Simpson-cover controversy was further fueled by the debate over whether Time and/or its critics were implying that "blacker is more sinister." Also, for the record, the highly acclaimed artist who created the Simpson cover image for Time, Matt Mahurin, was not involved in the magazine's presentation of it. FoundView-related issues often involve publishers as much as they do photographers.)
B-8: The original inspiration for the idea of FoundView was sparked by the article "When Is Seeing Believing?" by William J. Mitchell, in Scientific American, February 1994, and again by Mitchell's March 1994 Chicago lecture (at the Art Institute of Chicago) on photographic manipulation in the digital age. The motivation for FoundView came not so much from what was in Mitchell's Scientific American article but from what was not; as a professor at MIT writing for a scientific publication, Mitchell understandably dealt to a much greater extent than FoundView does with technical aspects of digital image manipulation and detection and spent relatively little time addressing ethical concerns.
C-1: In the paragraph on "changing" elements, the quotation about "wrong direction" is by photographer Art Wolfe. Wolfe is discussed extensively in Kenneth Brower's excellent article "Photography in an Age of Falsification," published in the May 1998 issue of the Atlantic Monthly. Viewers who aren't professional photographers or critics rarely write about their expectations of photographs; Brower's article is a noteworthy exception.
C-2: Technically speaking, with digital technology even radical photographic manipulations often are, at the microscopic level, merely changes in "tone" to individual pixels. Needless to say, when distinguishing between "changing tones" and "changing forms and shapes" in photographs, viewers care only about what is readily visible to the unaided eye.
C-15: The estimate of 50 billion photographs per year is from Galen Rowell in Outdoor Photographer, March 1999. This figure can be expected to rise significantly with increased use of digital cameras, which record images on reuseable media and require no expenditure on film or film processing.
C-15: The quotation by Henri Cartier-Bresson ("greatest respect") is from Dialogue with Photography by Paul Hill and Thomas Cooper (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1979; recently back in print).
D-2: Every once in awhile someone takes issue with the statement "It's much easier to create a remarkable image with post-shutter manipulations than it is with a decisive single click of the shutter." But if the statement wasn't true, someone, somewhere, sometime certainly would have tried to pass off a single-click photograph as a content-manipulated image. In reality, of course, only the reverse happens: countless content-manipulated images are passed off as single-click photographs. (See also B-1.)
D-4: The quotation "There is an intended deception" (in the paragraph beginning with "Regarding the first question") is by photographer Bruce Barnbaum in his book The Art of Photography (Kendall-Hunt Publishing, 1994).
D-4: An example of a lost stock sale, as alluded to in the paragraph beginning with "A competitive advantage," was related by prominent adventure photographer Galen Rowell in his book Galen Rowell's Vision, (Sierra Club Books, 1993): "An environmental organization discovered a power line in one of my transparencies selected for use in a calendar of wilderness scenes without human artifacts. They asked if I would consent to digital retouching to eliminate the wires. When I declined, they showed me an image printed in a previous calendar in which wires were removed. Unlike the photographer who had consented to the manipulation, I stood my ground and lost the sale."
D-4: The quotation "If you sold the picture to a calendar company. . . " (in the paragraph beginning with "A competitive advantage") is by photographer Tim Fitzharris, in "Give Your Nature Photos a Helping Hand," Popular Photography, February 1998. See also the note about E-8, below.
E-4: The quotation by Ansel Adams ("There are always two people in my photographs") is from Robert Werling's A Way of Seeing (Berman, 1997).
E-4: The quotation "We all have different standards . . . " is by Art Wolfe, quoted in Kenneth Brower's article "Photography in the Age of Falsification" in the Atlantic Monthly, May 1998.
E-6: That humans can see very near and far objects simultaneously in focus is a common misconception. For example: "If you focus on a subject close to the camera with a long lens, the background is rendered out of focus. This isn't what your eyes see." (Jim Zuckerman, "Photography and the Computer," Petersen's Photographic, January 1997) As the hand-in-front-of-the-face example in E-6 proves, this is what your eyes see.
E-8: Popular Photography reported the perspective of photographer Tim Fitzharris, a proponent of the "it-could-have-happened" school of manipulation (in the interestingly-titled article, "Give Your Nature Photos A Helping Hand," Popular Photography, February 1998): "What Tim [Fitzharris] takes issue with is the widely held notion that nature pictures must be held to the same criteria as hard news pictures. . . . He feels that the goals of artistic expression and documentary statement need not be diametrically opposed so long as the end result is an image that looks natural or could possibly have been made in a single unaltered shot." (Italics added; see D-2 for more on "art" vs. "documentary" photographs.) Fitzharris himself asserts in the same article: "If you take the image of a wolf and place it in the middle of the Sahara desert, the result may be an interesting work of art, but it isn't really a nature picture. However, if you take the same wolf image and combine it with a scenic vista of an area where wolves of the same type are indigenous, I think it is a valid nature picture."
FoundView proponents, on the other hand, affirm the "widely held notion" that "valid nature pictures" must depict nature scenes the way nature arranges them, not the way the photographer wishes they were arranged (see C-1). There is no way any human can ever presume to know why a wolf in the wild might walk even an inch to one side or the other, and to fabricate an image that puts the wolf anywhere other than exactly where it was photographed is not reality but rather a mere guess (see E-10)and the viewer should be alerted accordingly. In other words, if an image "could have been made in a single unaltered shot," the photographer should simply make it that way in the first place (see F-1). If for whatever reason the photographer can't do so, that doesn't give him license to fabricate an image and then trick viewers into thinking that he did make it "in a single unaltered shot" (see E-15). Yes, photographers have the artistic right to superimpose a wolf image on whatever background they choose: Sahara desert, north woods, downtown New York City. However, if the resulting photograph looks like a single unaltered nature shot, viewers will invariably want to be told if they are seeing the photographer's arrangement instead of nature's arrangement (they know it can't be both). Such an image is a deception, pure and simple, if it is presented as "a single unaltered shot" but does not show the wolf precisely where it was actually photographed (and that means down to the last twig, not merely in the same hemisphere, country, or "area" where such wolves have been seen). See also A-4 and E-4. (Note that Popular Photography was not explicitly endorsing Fitzharris's perspectiveonly reporting itand that the magazine itself is scrupulous about disclosing manipulations of content in the photographs it publishes.) A similar "could-have-happened" example of manipulation was presented by photographer Art Wolfe, who, when criticized by zoologists for cutting and pasting five additional cubs into his photograph of a cheetah mother originally photographed with only one cub, cited literature stating that cheetah litters could theoretically be as large as eight. (See Kenneth Brower's article "Photography in the Age of Falsification" in the Atlantic Monthly, May 1998.)
E-8: This discussion of Ansel Adams' Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico refers to the vintage prints, Adams' earliest (and thus most valuable) expressions of his famous 1941 photograph. In his later prints of Moonrise, Adams darkened the sky so much that some wispy clouds high in the sky on the original negative are not visibleat least not in published versions of the image. Even wispy clouds count as "forms and shapes," deletion of which would seem to instantly disqualify these later prints of Moonrise from FoundView. On the other hand, tonal variations in photographs are often integral to artistic expression, elements in darker areas of photographs can become illegible when darkening entire regions of the print (see F-12 and E-13), and visual information (especially shadow detail) often gets lost during the journey from photograph to printed page. Bottom line: reasonable people differ on whether the later Moonrise prints would qualify as FoundView, which is why the earlier prints are the basis for the discussion in E-8. Adams discusses his various struggles with the photograph in Examples (Little, Brown, 1983); the image appears in that book and in a number of other Adams books published by Little, Brown. A detailed account of the last darkroom session at which Adams printed the Moonrise negative (on February 21, 1980) appears in Mary Street Alinder's Ansel Adams: A Biography (Henry Holt and Co., 1996).
E-9: Few people regard W. Eugene Smith as an unfailing paradigm for FoundView-style photography because of his occasional post-shutter manipulations of content and his penchant for pre-shutter manipulations that exceed the typical viewer's standard for non-deception (e.g., paying actors to pose as rural villagers, or having subjects repeat over and over again for his camera actions that Smith later presented as spontaneous). Many of Smith's greatest photographs clearly would qualify as FoundView, but others would not. For a revealing look at Smith's manipulation techniques (which he characterized as "rearranging for the truth of actuality") see the essay "W. Eugene Smith: His Techniques and Process" by Paul T. Hill in W. Eugene Smith: Photographs 1934-1975 (Harry Abrams, 1998).
E-10: The observation that "Retouched reality is an oxymoron" is from Howard Chapnick's book, Truth Needs No Ally (University of Missouri Press, 1994), which contains numerous excellent discussions of photographic ethics.
E-12: The quotation by Henri Cartier-Bresson ("great physical and intellectual joy") is from Dialogue with Photography by Paul Hill and Thomas Cooper (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1979; recently back in print).
F-12: The "Zone" references allude to the "Zone System" of photographic exposure and development co-developed and popularized by photographer Ansel Adams. For details, see Adams' book The Negative (first published in 1981, reprinted 1998, by Little, Brown) or any of the many other books on the Zone System. The tones in scenes (and in black-and-white photographs) are numbered in 11 steps ("zones") from "0" (black) through a range of progressively lighter grays to "X" [ten] (white). Regarding the tones cited in F-12, The Negative describes a Zone II tone as "First suggestion of texture. Deep tonalities, representing the darkest part of the image in which some slight detail is required"; a Zone I tone is characterized as "First step above complete black in print, with slight tonality but no texture." At the other end of the tonal spectrum, a Zone XIII tone is described as "Whites with textures and delicate values; textured snow; highlights on Caucasian skin," and a Zone IX tone is "White with texture approaching pure white, thus comparable to Zone I in its slight tonality with no texture."
F-18: For more on the relationship between focal length, enlargement size, viewing distance, cropping, and apparent perspective, see chapters 7.13 and 7.14 in Leslie Stroebel's ageless book View Camera Techniques (7th edition published in 1999 by Butterworth-Heinemann; previous editions were published by Butterworth's Focal Press division).
F-23: The question of whether a pre-shutter manipulation of the subject was done "for the camera" or whether "it would have been done anyway" was deemed an unacceptable litmus test for FoundView because it is too complex and ambiguous.
For example, suppose a group of 12 elected officials attend a meeting. Only seven of the 12 know that the meeting will be photographed for the newspapers; the other five don't think that cameras are allowed in the conference room. Ten of the 12 attendees comb their hair and touch up their makeup or straighten their neckties before the meeting.
When determining whether the subject of the group's photograph was manipulated, does their grooming count as being done "for the camera" orsince some of the ten didn't know they'd be photographeddoes it qualify as "something they would have done anyway"? Would a photograph of the entire group count as FoundView, or only photographs showing those who didn't know they were going to be photographed and those who didn't spiff themselves up before the meeting? Before attaching the FoundView checkmark to the photograph, should the photographer have to ask each attendee whether they spruced themselves up for the camera?
That raises another issue: whose word would count in such scenarios? Suppose that the president went to visit an ordinary citizen's home somewhere out in America's heartland. Would news photographs of the visit contain "excessive manipulation of the subject" if the homeowner had painted the house the week before the press corps arrived? If so, what if the homeowner insisted that he had been planning to paint the house that week anyway? Or what if the homeowner mowed the lawn before the cameras arrived; would it matter with respect to determining "excessive manipulation" if the lawn was mowed a day ahead of schedule so it would look neater in the photographs? Or what if the beat-up family car was pulled into the garage instead of left in the driveway? The homeowner and the photographer wanting to label the resulting picture as FoundView might contend that the old car is usually in the garage anyway (so the action was not done expressly "for the camera"), but what if the neighbors claimed it was usually in the driveway?
Many scenes that we see every day, in real life or in realistic photographs, are to at least some degree arranged or orchestrated: press conferences, portraits, gardens, parades, sports events, still-lifes, protest rallies, military maneuvers, art galleries, museums, classrooms, campaign speeches, operas, plays, dancing, dance performances, concerts, air shows, historical re-enactments, ice sculptures, sand castles. Rather than trying to ascertain the degree of human orchestration of these activitiesor trying to define how much of the orchestration was done "for the camera"it's much simpler to ask "Would the typical viewer feel deceived?" If the answer is "Yes" or "Maybe," the photograph should not be labeled FoundView.
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