Photo-manipulations vs. photography

Started 3 months ago | Polls thread
knickerhawk Veteran Member • Posts: 6,364
Re: Computer art vs. photography

Levantinian wrote:

Laybourne wrote:

But is the line between the two really as cut and dry as they make it out to be?

What do you think?

The line between photography and decorative art employing a digital image file and computer manipulation is quite well defined.

It is a photograph if the computer manipulation of camera generated digital file is restricted to the following:

  1. Restoration of image perspective to what it would be if the lens axis and the sensor x direction were both in the horizontal plane.
  2. Crop within the existing sensor frame.
  3. Correction of blemishes introduced by the foreign particles on the sensor surface.
  4. Correction for the colour temperature, light sensitivity and contrast, uniform over the whole image frame.

If there is any computer manipulation of the image file produced by the camera, it may well be art, but it is not photography.

That's an incredibly restrictive definition. It imposes arbitrary rules that permit some "computer manipulations" and excludes others. Just a few of the problems I see with this "well defined" separation of photographs and non-photographs:

  1. All B&W images are not photographs. Virtually all of Steiglitz's, Weston's, Adams, HCB's, Salgado's works, all of the WPA-sponsored photos, all of Capra's war photos, and on and on must be removed from the "Photography" galleries of museum or, at a minimum, they must be accompanied with labels that describe them as non-photos.
  2. All images stitched and stacked/merged in postprocessing are disqualified apparently. Query whether HiRes images now available in a number of cameras are also qualified.
  3. Sharpening and noise reduction is not permitted. Assuming this is an oversight and global sharpening and noise reduction is ok, then what about localized sharpening and noise reduction? These are clearly computer manipulations. What about any form of localized "corrections" such as dodging/burning? What about any of the allowed types of corrections that are not "uniformly" applied but are, rather, restricted by "blend if" thresholds or masked or painted in to regions of the image that were adversely affected by technical capture limitations?
  4. What about "corrections" uniformly applied to a single color channel? These, too, apparently are verboten.
  5. Resizing is not addressed, so presumably when an image is upsized and new pixels are generated by some computer algorithm, this transforms the photo into a non-photo. Likewise, when an image is downsized so that details (such as those sensor dust bunnies) that were visible are now removed, what was previously a photo becomes a non-photo.
  6. Images blended to correct for a camera's dynamic range limitation are not photos.
  7. Removing a single (temporary) zit or a strand of hair from your daughter's high school prom photo transforms it into a non-photo. And that's true even if the only way you see the zit is by viewing the image at 100% instead of at typical viewing sizes on most portable devices and in most web applications.

I could go on, but the above should illustrate the problem with such a rigidly limited definition. It might be fine for some photo contests and it might be applicable for certain forensic and documentarian use cases, but it is far too restrictive as a useful general definition of what distinguishes photography from non-photography.

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