E. Philosophy of FoundView
(You may click on a desired question or simply scroll down to the answer)
E-1. Why do photographs need a labeling system? Haven't they always been able to speak for themselves? E-2. Why should viewers have to watch for the FoundView checkmark on single-click, unmanipulated photographs? Wouldn't it be more logical to label images that have been heavily manipulated? E-3. Haven't photographersincluding some very famous onesbeen combining images since the mid-1800s? If FoundView says "manipulations are manipulations, whether darkroom or digital", why are current synthesized photographs any different from historic ones? E-4. FoundView talks a lot about the expectations of "the viewer." Why should photographers care what viewers think? And what are viewers' expectations of photographs, anyway? E-5. Why should photographers care about upholding their covenant with the viewer? E-6. Don't all photographs lie? E-7. Isn't all image manipulation equal, whether cutting and pasting or burning and dodging? E-8. What is so sacrosanct about "forms and shapes" that they can't be altered but tones can? After all, the appearance of a picture can be drastically changed by altering tones and only changed a little bit by minor alteration of forms and shapes. E-9. Didn't some of the greatest masters of straight photography manipulate content in ways indiscernible to the viewer? E-10. Is it true that some visual effects, if set up in the camera or at the scene prior to clicking the shutter, meet the FoundView standardbut if manipulations that simulate these exact same effects are performed after clicking the shutter, the image cannot qualify as FoundView? E-11. What about pre-shutter manipulations to the subject? E-12. Why does FoundView put so much emphasis on "the decisive moment"? E-13. If realism is often the goal, why does FoundView sanction any manipulation at all, of tones or anything else? E-14. Why doesn't FoundView spell out exactly what to do in every situation? E-15. What about the argument that post-shutter manipulation of forms and shapes "levels the playing field" in photography because it allows those who don't have the skills, experience, creativity, time, energy, or patience required to capture remarkable images in the field to instead generate such images at home, on a computer?
E-1. Why do photographs need a labeling system? Haven't they always been able to speak for themselves?
Most image manipulation techniques that preceded the digital era (soft focus, hand-tinting, photomontage, solarization, posterization, black-and-white) were so immediately apparent that deception of the viewer was not a common problem. The need to alert viewers to manipulations in photographs became much more urgent with the advent of digital technologies that make even major post-shutter manipulations of content undetectable to the viewer.
E-2. Why should viewers have to watch for the FoundView checkmark on photographs that haven't undergone manipulations of content? Wouldn't it be more logical to label images in which the content has been manipulated?
It might seem logical at first, but why would photographers want to publicly announce that they've manipulated the content of their photographs if they're trying to pass the images off as unmanipulated? Such labels have been proposed before, but they failed quickly because they were universally ignored. When the success of a synthesized image depends on deceiving the viewer into thinking that a single, unaltered photograph is being viewed, the images most in need of labeling are in fact the least likely to be labeled. No photographer whose most important tool is deception is going to affix a label that negates that tool.
Imagine that you market genuine gold jewelry and you want consumers to be able to distinguish between imitation gold and the real thing. Which would be more realistic: hoping that your competitors who try to pass off costume jewelry as real gold will voluntarily imprint the words "Not Real GoldCheaply Plated Tin" on their wares, or stamping "Genuine 24-karat Gold" on yours? FoundView is a means of declaring that photographs in which content was not manipulated are exactly what they appear to be.
Note that FoundView does not take issue with honestly presented synthesized images (or costume jewelry!), only with synthesized and composite images masquerading as single-click photographs. This is why it is important to distinguish between "obvious" composites and "disguised" ones and to recognize that FoundView is only a response to the latter. Many of today's bestand best-knownphotographers are creatively and openly arranging photographs and combining images; they make no apologies and no secret about doing so, nor need they. When a photograph is obviously synthesized, there is no danger of deceiving the viewer the way there is when the manipulation techniques are disguised so that the viewer thinks it's an unmanipulated photograph.
E-3. Haven't photographersincluding some very famous onesbeen combining images since the mid-1800s? If FoundView says "manipulations are manipulations, whether darkroom or digital," why are current synthesized photographs any different from historic ones?
Rejlander, Rodchenko, Lissitzky, Moholy-Nagy, Man Ray, Uelsmann, Mutter: all of these photographers were combining images long before the digital erabut with an important difference: they didn't try to conceal their image manipulations. Viewers were not led to believe that these artists were making unmanipulated images, and contemporary imitators should note that these photographers became celebrated largely because of their creative synthetic techniques, not in spite of them. FoundView has absolutely no problem with images that underwent content manipulations that are obvious or are otherwise clearly disclosed to the viewer (see A-4), whether those images were created this morning or a century ago. But what was true then still holds true today: photographers who aren't trying to deceive their viewers have no reason to hide manipulations of content.
E-4. FoundView talks a lot about the expectations of "the viewer." Why should photographers care what viewers think? And what are viewers' expectations of photographs, anyway?
Ansel Adams used to say, "There are always two people in all of my pictures, the photographer and the viewer." It is tempting for some photographers to disregard or ridicule the expectations of the viewer because they like to think they only make images to please themselves. (One prominent nature photographer stated, "We all have different [ethical] standards. I certainly don't want to be told by somebody else what I should be doing.") These photographers' tune changes, however, when they realize thatfor realistic-looking photographs, at leasttheir commercial or professional success depends entirely on the viewer's faith and trust in their images. Without viewers' high expectations (including their presumption of reasonably-high ethical standards), realistic-looking photographs wouldn't have any credibility at all. Photographers who never show any photographs to anyone need not concern themselves with viewer expectations; all others need to understand the perspective of their viewing audience, no matter how small that audience may be.
So what are viewers expectations? Viewers of photographs are like readers of books: they want to know if what they're seeingor readingis fiction or nonfiction. (They may appreciate both equally, but they still want to know which is which.) The viewing public expects realistic-looking photographs to depict the things that the camera recorded at the scene when shutter was clicked. Knowing of this expectation, every photographer who presents realistic-looking photographs is counting on viewers to trust the photographs. The result of this exchange between photographer and viewer is a universal, unspoken mutual understanding or covenant: that realistic-looking photographs, unless identified or presented otherwise, depict the forms and shapes that were recorded by the camera the moment the shutter was clicked.
This "covenant" explains why a photographer can't pass off a synthesized or composite image as a single-click photograph and reasonably claim that "it shouldn't matter to the viewer how it was made." That photographer is breaking the covenant with the viewer, asking for the viewer's trust while secretly betraying that trust. (See also D-6.)
E-5. Why should photographers care about upholding their covenant with the viewer?
Because it is in photography's interest to do so.
When viewers discover that what they believed to be a single-click photograph is in fact an artificial synthesis or composite, they start to lose faith in the reliability of all photographs. The many negative effects of this practice on the credibility of photography in general are self-evident. To destroy the viewer's trust in realistic-looking photographs would be a fundamental loss and would discard what many people consider to be the medium's most precious and distinctive characteristic. It's tantamount to killing the goose that lays the golden eggs: every photographer who creates realistic-looking images profits from the credibility that viewers ascribe to realistic-looking photographs. To destroy that credibility is to ruin all photographers' chances of making images that benefit from it. (See D-1.)
If the trustworthiness of photographs is worth preservingand FoundView proponents feel that it isphotographers must do all they can to ensure that the viewing public doesn't start to mistrust all photographs. More conscientious photographers will lead to a better-informed viewing public, and a better-informed public will keep photographers (and photography) honest.
The public still believes in photography's unparalleled capacity for conveying reality. Whether the medium maintains this credibility is entirely in the hands of its practitioners.
E-6. Don't all photographs lie?
No. People who claim all photographs lie usually point to the use of such photographic techniques as perspective variances, cropping, or selective focus. But these effects aren't unique to photography; if they qualified as lying, then all human seeing would be lies as well. With respect to perspective variances, for example, our perspective on scenes we see in daily life is constantly varying. We just don't notice it because our brainsunlike the fixed perspective of a photographcontinuously compensate for the varying relative size of objects in our field of view as we move around. (What people call perspective "distortion" in photographs is often merely a function of viewing distance; see F-18.) With respect to cropping, if you turn your head so that you don't see someone standing at your side, are your eyes lying? As for selective focus, our eyes function just as do other kinds of lenses: simply studying a hand held in front of one's face and noting the out-of-focus background reveals that humans do not see everything simultaneously in focus (this is contrary to popular belief; see Notes). In most respects, in fact, FoundView photography merely follows the same rules as human seeing. Of course, perspective, cropping, and focus canlike all photographic toolsbe used deceptively. But that's quite different from concluding that "all photographs lie."
Sometimes it is claimed that all photographs lie because they can depict a scene or an event from only one perspective. But then of course one must also put into the "Lies" category not only photography but also all news reportage, all historical writing, all documentary journalism, all videotape footage, all eyewitness accounts, all personal recollectionsindeed, all portrayals of anything, because no portrayal can ever convey every conceivable perspective. The universal human limitation that we can only experience one perspective at a time (whether in physical presence at a scene or in viewing the scene through some other medium) can by no means be automatically equated with a "lie."
E-7. Isn't all image manipulation equal, whether cutting and pasting or burning and dodging?
No. There is a huge difference between changing the tone of a photograph (by varying contrast, brightness, intensity, and hueincluding burning and dodging) and changing its content (by, say, cutting and pasting in a full moon to rescue a bland picture or putting in an embrace two celebrities who have never met). (Of course, when changes in tone become excessive, they can affect content. See, for example, F-10 and F-13.)
Viewers aren't stupid. Most viewers have taken a photograph at some point in their lives, and they know that while some pictures will come out lighter and some darker, every last snapshot they've ever taken records the things in the scene at the moment the shutter was clicked (unless they left on the lens cap). The only time their photographs would ever show anything else would be if someone went in and manipulated the elements in the picture after the shutter was clicked. This personal experience with having made a photograph (or watching a family member make one) is usually the basis for viewers' expectations when they look at a realistic-looking photograph.
But FoundView photography even meets the logical expectations of those who have never taken a photograph, because it basically follows the same rules as human seeing. Everybody knows that squinting our eyes makes a scene appear darker, for example, but no matter how hard we squint we can't magically introduce nonpresent forms and shapes. Similarly, if ten people are standing together looking at, say, a row of five stone pillars, the quality of the light (contrast, brightness, intensity, and hue) will probably be described a bit differently by each viewer, but the list of what forms and shapes are present (how many stone pillars) is not something any of the ten viewers can change without creating a fiction. So it is with FoundView photography.
E-8. What is so sacrosanct about "forms and shapes" that they can't be altered but tones can? After all, the appearance of a picture can be drastically changed by altering tones and only changed a little bit by minor alteration of forms and shapes.
The alteration of forms and shapes may change the appearance of a picture "only a little bit," perhaps, but it always affects contentand the distinction is important. FoundView advocatesand most viewersbelieve this question speaks to a difference in kind (tone vs. content) that outweighs any differences of degree.
With respect to tonal variations, the vast majority either are not extensive enough to alter the content or are so immediately apparent (e.g., kelly-green skies, purple horses, blue bananas) that the viewer is unlikely to feel deceived. Tonal manipulations are most likely to be deceptive when they are both (a) extensive or related to content and (b) and unknowable to the typical viewer. Examples of this would include a daytime picture printed darkly so that it looks like night (see F-13), a night cityscape in which the light visible in various windows was darkened, or a photograph of a bird whose plumage color was digitally changed so that the bird is not recognizable as its own species (see F-10). Any images that have undergone major tonal manipulations or misrepresent the content of what the camera recorded at the scene do not qualify as FoundView. (See also C-3.)
However, when it comes to alterations in content (especially manipulation of forms and shapes), even changes that the photographer may claim are "minor" are likely to seem much more "major" to the viewer. (See also C-1.) Photographers know that viewers are likely to object to any undisclosed manipulation of forms and shapes. Thus it has lately become fashionable in some photographic circles to rationalize these manipulations by arguing that a composite scene "could have happened." Proponents of this approach argue, for example, that because a particular species of bird has been spotted at least once, sometime, somewhere in a particular region of the world, there's nothing wrong with inserting an image of such a bird into an especially attractive little scene photographed in that same geographic region, because "it could have happened." Sometimes it is even argued that the sky's the limit with this kind of manipulation as long as the image isn't "a hard news picture." (See Notes.)
Viewers easily grasp the shortcomings of this reasoning. A quick look at two of the most famous photographs of the twentieth century illustrates the importance that viewers place on seeing the forms and shapes that the camera actually recorded at the moment that the shutter was clicked. In Ansel Adams's Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, most viewers don't seem to mind when informed that Adams darkened the sky to make the moon more prominent and increased the contrast in the foreground so that the sunlit grave markers would be easier to see. But if Adams had admitted that he had actually photographed a vacant lot on a cloudy day, then inserted the grave markers in the ground and the full moon in the sky, neither the image nor the photographer would have had any credibility at all with viewersno matter how much he'd argued that "it could have happened." (See Notes.)
Similarly for Henri Cartier-Bresson's Behind the Gare St. Lazare, the legendary 1932 image of the man trying to jump over a puddle in Paris: if the photographer had photographed a plain puddle, then later inserted an image of a man jumping, and tossed a relevant circus poster in the background for good measurejustifying all of this manipulation because "it could have happened"the image would have been a trifle rather than a knockout.
Neither of these great photographs is anything close to a "hard news picture" (indeed, each is in its own way the antithesis of one) yet essentially the same viewer expectations apply. Although purveyors of undisclosed composites may wish otherwise, the fact is that viewers of photographs which appear to depict reality want to see what the camera actually recorded when the shutter was clicked, not what "could have" happened. (See also E-10, F-1, F-2.)
E-9. Didn't some of the greatest masters of straight photography manipulate content in ways indiscernible to the viewer?
Yes, although it was apparently extremely rare and in most cases the photographers voluntarily disclosed the manipulations to viewers. Edward Steichen's powerful portrait RodinThe Thinker was actually a composite of two photographs. Ansel Adams retouched over a prominent graffito in his famous Winter Sunrise. Paul Strand routinely retouched forms and shapes in his very early photographs, sometimes deleting an entire person (as in Wall Street). W. Eugene Smith superimposed a silhouette in the corner of a photograph of Albert Schweitzer.
These manipulations are documentably true. There are at least three FoundView-related lessons to be learned from these examples:
1. It pays to be forthright about manipulations and disclose them to viewers. When photographers who manipulate forms and shapes engage in full disclosure (Steichen was apparently pleased with his solution for a confined portrait setting, for instance, and Adams never made any secret about his "correction" of the graffito, nor Strand of his deletions), they suffer far less damage to their reputation than when viewers discover the manipulation later (as was the case with Smith; see Notes) and wonder, "How many other photographs by this person were manipulated?" (This also explains why it's in any photographer's interest to draw a clear line between his or her FoundView and non-FoundView images; see C-5 and C-6.)
2. For these photographers and their mostly FoundView-compatible bodies of work, the manipulated exceptions proved the unmanipulated rule: the fact that we can rattle off the name of a single photograph out of tens of thousands produced several decades ago by someone we never met means that we must hold these photographers in remarkably high regard for their integrity! Indeed, when proponents of undisclosed content manipulation want to rationalize their actions by citing content manipulations done by "the masters" of straight photography, they often trot out one of the four examples listed above because there simply aren't very many others.
3. Other great photographers with other chosen specialties have repeatedly established beyond a doubt that being an accomplished photographer is not dependent on doing FoundView-type work so much as it is on doing images with integrity and respect for one's audience. Many great photographers have specializedand are specializingin heavily manipulated photography involving portraiture, fashion, and landscape. As long as this work is presented, identified, or immediately apparent to the typical viewer as manipulated, FoundView is not an issue.
E-10. Is it true that some visual effects, if set up in the camera or at the scene prior to clicking the shutter, meet the FoundView standardbut if manipulations that simulate these visual effects are performed on the photograph after clicking the shutter, the image cannot qualify as FoundView?
Yes. FoundView celebrates this distinction and encourages all photographers to do so as well. For perspective, shutter speed, camera position, lens choice, depth of field, composition, weather conditions, when to click the shutter, time of day, season, and many other aspects of taking a photograph, FoundView sanctions choices made at the scene before the shutter is clickedbut disqualifies post-shutter manipulations that simulate the effect of having made those choices.
In matters of content, for any realistic-looking photograph FoundView always privileges what the camera recorded at the scene over what was done to an image in subsequent days or weeks after the shutter was clicked. There are two reasons for this:
1. Post-shutter manipulations can only guess at the effect of what would have been recorded by the camera had a particular effect been selected "at the scene" before the shutter was clicked. For example, anything in a photographsay, a treecan be digitally moved or removed to simulate having taken the picture from a different camera position. However, once that tree is moved aside in the image, whoever is manipulating the image must fill in the space left by the tree. The manipulator can't know what it really looked like behind the tree's former position, so he or she can only guess at, and then fabricate, the portion of the scene that had been behind the tree. This post-shutter conjecture of what was behind the tree clearly would not look the same as having actually photographed that area of the scene in the first place. Because they rely on guesswork, speculation, and fabrication, post-shutter simulations of pre-shutter visual effects can never equal the real thingand cannot qualify as FoundView.
The above tree example illustrates only one of the flaws of post-shutter effects simulations. The many complex changes to the relationships between subjects in a photograph are even less likely to be realistically fabricated with post-shutter manipulations. For example, it is easy to delete from a photograph one of four birds flying together, but it is impossible to know how the other three birds would be positioned if they were actually flying without the fourth. Many real-world subjects constantly respond to their surroundings: tree branches in the wind, cars in traffic, flowers and plants growing in groups, pedestrians in the city, animals in a pack or flock or herd. Post-shutter alterations to one portion of such scenes invariably upset this hidden equilibrium in countless ways that are unknowable to the person doing the image manipulation. (See also C-1.)
2. Whether or not they were present at the original scene, viewers depend on realistic-looking photographs to convey precisely the elements that the camera recorded at the scene at the specific moment when the shutter was clicked. (This is as true for a batch of family snapshots as it is for photographs seen in an art museum; see D-2.) In other words, unmanipulated photographs depict, with a quality unmatched by any other medium and with unparalleled clarity and detail, a unique perspective of a unique slice of the world at a unique moment. Each such photograph can have only one perspective, can be taken at only one moment in time, and can incorporate only one arrangement of objects in the scene. The viewer knows about this unique quality and values it, which is why viewers want to know whether the content of a realistic-looking photograph was or was not manipulated after the shutter was clicked. For viewers, the ends never render irrelevant the means when it comes to realistic-looking photographs; how the image was made is of great importance to viewers of any realistic-looking photograph. (See D-6.)
Those who don't understand the distinction in E-10 don't see what is so special about that one particular moment when the shutter is clicked. Why, they ask, don't manipulations done to a photograph after the shutter was clicked "equal" decisions made in the moments before the shutter was clicked? The answer, of course, is that just because the shutter is clicked in only one brief instant in the whole span of history doesn't make that moment random or arbitraryquite the opposite! It is instead a "decisive" moment, because the photographer has decided that the scene he or she wants to convey to the viewer is right there, at that place, at that unrepeatable moment. The photographer chooses that moment over all other moments in history, just as he or she chooses that perspective over all other perspectives available (see F-1 and F-3). Subsequent manipulations to the content of an image can override what was recorded by the camera the moment the shutter was clicked . . . but never without ruining the value of that decisive moment. (See also E-12.)
Each click of the shutter creates an intact wholea particular visual arrangement decided upon by the photographer at the scenewhich is accordingly valued by the viewer. The content of this unique whole is either left untouchedintactor it is not; one cannot break it up "a little bit" (through post-shutter manipulations) any more than a woman can be "a little bit" pregnant. Once any forms or shapes are changed in a photograph, it no longer depicts the arrangement that the camera recorded at the decisive moment. Any photographer is free to either adopt or reject "decisive moment" photography, but it is self-contradictory to extol the virtues of this kind of photography and then proceed (through post-shutter content manipulations) to nullify the value of decisions made at the moment the shutter was clicked. No realistic-looking photograph can be both genuine and synthesized; as Howard Chapnick put it, "Retouched reality is an oxymoron."
Bottom line: Viewers prize a realistic photograph because it shows them what one photographer saw at one special moment. That's not to say that synthesized or composite photos, like oil paintings or charcoal sketches, don't have their own unique value as artistically-created imagesonly that they are very different from photographs that capture a decisive, unrepeatable moment. The viewer, needless to say, wants to know which is which. (See also C-1.)
E-11. What about pre-shutter manipulations of the subject?
FoundView does not spell out specific guidelines for pre-shutter manipulations to the subject the way it does for post-shutter manipulations to the photograph.
Issues of how much orchestration or manipulation of the subject is permissiblemove a branch? pick up a piece of litter? direct a person? lure an animal?have been hotly debated for well over a century in all realms of photography. There has never been a widely accepted label to disclose to viewers what happened to the subject before the shutter was clicked, and there may never be one. Although people occasionally try to devise a system for labeling pre-shutter manipulations, apparently there are simply too many real-world variables to make any such system workable. We live in a world filled with human imprints, and to disqualify all scenes that included any human influence on the subject would bar all but the most pristine, stumbled-upon wilderness photos. Beyond that, it would be impossible in many cases to define which manipulations to the subject were done "for the camera" and which would have been done anyway (for example, if a senator combs her hair shortly before being photographed for a newspaper interview, would that qualify as something that might have been done anyway or would it constitute "excessive pre-shutter manipulation to the subject"?). The difficulties of designing a labeling system that addresses the infinite variety of pre-shutter manipulations are obviousand probably insurmountable.
Thus, when it comes to judging the validity or deceptiveness of various pre-shutter manipulations, FoundView simply encourages the photographer to use his or her discretion, applying the "Would the typical viewer feel deceived?" test (see C-3) to judge whether such changes cross the line and become deceptive. The test may not eliminate all deceptive pre-shutter manipulations, but it certainly makes the photographer far more accountable than he or she would be if the photograph was not put to any test at all. (See also F-23 and F-24.)
E-12. Why does FoundView put so much emphasis on "the decisive moment"?
Because it is at the foundation of realistic photography.
Taking realistic photographs is frequently a matter of capturing an unrepeatable moment, thinking on one's feet, coping with varying conditions and elements in the field, reaching into what is often a deep personal well of experience and wisdom right there at the scene in order to create an unforgettable image. To quote photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, who coined the term "the decisive moment" a half-century ago: "To take photographs means to recognizesimultaneously and within a fraction of a secondboth the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning. It is putting one's head, one's eye, and one's heart on the same axis. . . . To take photographs is to hold one's breath when all faculties converge in the face of fleeing reality. It is at that moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy."
FoundView proponents regard "photograph" as not merely a noun ("a photograph") but also a verb ("to photograph"). For them, "photography" is not merely about the physical objecta "drawing of light"but also about the intensely personal mental, emotional, and physical act"drawing with light." Recent technologies have provided the ability to alter the interrelationship, appearance, and presence of elements in a photograph long after the shutter was clicked, but these practices emphasize only the physical objectthe photograph (the noun)at the expense of the deliberate and demanding act of photographing (the verb).
Most photographers agree that the most difficult challenge of their art is to isolate such rare things as beauty, order, and meaning amidst the infinitely crowded and chaotic human and natural landscape and then to capture thesein one breathless momentfor the viewer, eloquently, powerfully, within the hard boundaries of a single frame. To fabricatelong after the shutter was clickedan image that has the convincing appearance of having done all of this is its own sophisticated art, but it isn't the same as to have photographed something with a single click of the shutter. To FoundView proponents, a synthesized image should never be presented as a single-click photograph because it bypasses what is for them the most important component of this kind of photography: the response of the photographer to the elements of the scene before him or her at the time the shutter was clicked. To suggest that post-shutter manipulations can be harmlessly substituted for choices made by the photographer at the sceneand the result presented as their equalis to argue that the decisive moment isn't important in photography. Such an argument unfairly diminishes and even negates the role of experience, wisdom, talent, timing, reflexes, andmost of all"a good eye" when clicking the shutter.
Note: In homage to the phrase's inventor (Cartier-Bresson), "decisive-moment photography" has often referred to urban "street" photography. FoundView proponents, however, apply the principle to a wide variety of subject matter. For the sports photographer, the decisive moment could be the apex of the athlete's jump or the despairing player's realization that the championship has been lost; for the landscape photographer, the crash of the surf or the "right" arrangement of clouds; for the wildlife photographer, the pounce of the predator or the flight of the prey; for the architectural photographer, the position of the sun and the patterns of shadows; and for the portraitist, the fleeting expression of delight or the twinkle of an eye. "The decisive moment" is not necessarily the height of action so much as it is the coming together of elements in the scene the way the photographer wants to record them. For the nature photographer, for example, the decisive moment could simply be the lull in the breeze that stills a swaying blossom. (See also Note #3.)
E-13. If realism is often the goal, why does FoundView sanction any manipulation at all, of tones or anything else?
Because there's no such thing as a completely unaltered photograph. The tones always change. From variations introduced by the kind of glass in the lens, the saturation or contrast of the film, or the setup of the capturing device, to numerous variables at the time of processing, printing, output, reproduction, and viewing, tones never remain unaffected during the journey from real-life scene to final photograph.
Most photographers know that they'll get noticeably different tones and colors by choosing Fuji film over Kodak, by developing their film for seven minutes instead of nine, by exposing a print in the enlarger for 20 seconds instead of 15, or by switching from one kind of computer printer to another. The process of photography does not allow life's enveloping colored light to be perfectly conveyed by a flat piece of paper (or celluloid) or by a computer screen.
Understanding, controlling, and creatively using variations in tone is a central challenge of photography. In addition to accommodating the inevitable changes in tones inherent in the photographic process (see above), photographersthose who "draw with light" (from the Greek graphein + photos)rely on variations in tone for personal expression. Publishers often need to alter tones for printing-press needs. In many cases a photographer or publisher adjusts the tonality of a photograph simply to make the tones in the image more true to the tones that were seen at the scene.
Thus attaching the FoundView checkmark to an image does not mean that "no manipulation took place" but rather that "any post-shutter manipulation was limited to variations in tone" (contrast, brightness, intensity, and hue). Forms and shapes in a FoundView photograph remain as they were recorded by the camera the moment the shutter was clicked. (See also F-10.)
E-14. Why doesn't FoundView spell out exactly what to do in every situation?
This question has been asked surprisingly often. Apparently a fair number of photographers out there are troubled by any gray areas and wish FoundView could provide detailed directions for every conceivable situation.
The reason FoundView doesn't spell out directions for every situation, of course, is that it would be impossible to imagine or anticipate every possible combination of factors and circumstances facing every photographer everywhere and every day. Even if the ethical choices involved in every imaginable photographic situation could be anticipatedand they can'tthe resulting guidelines would be unthinkably long and complex. This is why FoundView provides simple definitions and guidelines that are easy to remember and clear enough to make just about every manipulation-disclosure decision a no-brainer. For photographs where manipulations were limited to tones and yet some question might remain, FoundView suggests performing a simple test (asking "Would the typical viewer feel deceived?") which, when applied with a modicum of maturity and honesty, easily covers any situation. (See C-3.)
E-15. What about the argument that post-shutter manipulation of forms and shapes "levels the playing field" in photography because it allows those who don't have the skills, experience, creativity, reflexes, energy, or patience required to capture remarkable images in the field to instead generate such images at home, on a computer?
Except in cases where such manipulations are clearly disclosed, this argument completely ignores the expectations of viewers of realistic-looking photographs. The reasoning is akin to helicoptering "climbers" to within a hundred feet of a mountain's summit so that they need not go through the hassle of actually struggling up the entire mountain before they can brag that they "climbed to the peak."
The reason nobody buys the "level playing field" argument is that it completely disregards two realities, the reality of what was actually recorded by the camera when the shutter was clicked and the reality of viewers' expectations. When shown a realistic-looking photograph, viewers want to see what the camera actually recorded, not what could have happened. They want to know what the photographer did capture with that single click of the shutter, not what the photographer wishes he had captured at the scene if only he had gotten out of bed an hour earlier, had quicker reflexes, or had a better eye for composition (see also E-12 and F-1). Unless the images are clearly identified as synthesized, viewers believe, realistic-looking photographs are for presenting reality, not wishful thinking. (See also C-6.)
Again, FoundView has no quarrel with post-shutter manipulation of forms and shapesto do this well can take considerable skill and effortbut merely with efforts to foist off onto unknowing viewers these manipulations as single-click photographs. Artists are freer than ever before to create whatever kinds of images and fantasies they wish. FoundView is simply based on the philosophy that in any medium that implies veracityas do photographs that appear to have been made with a single click of the shutterartists must be honest with viewers or the credibility of the entire medium will be jeopardized. (See also D-6 and E-10.)
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