Do we get too obsessed by "real"?

Started 3 months ago | Discussions thread
OP MOD Tom Caldwell Forum Pro • Posts: 43,382
Was that Sally real? Of course she was …

ProfHankD wrote:

GnarlydogOZ wrote:

This scene is not real, at all.

Yes, the location and subject are, but my eyes did NOT see this when I was photographing. I used on purpose a lens that renders the bokeh in a weird way, swirly and soft, something my eyes can not see (unless drunk )

Ah, but it is faithful to how you envisioned it and has not been significantly manipulated after-the-fact in post. Your vision was set at capture time.

So, is it real? with no colors? (I am not color blind)

Honestly, I think of B&W as being inherently abstract -- which I like.

It always used to drive me nuts when people would look at one of my photos and say "Oh, that's Sally" when no, it's just an image of Sally as I envisioned her. B&W images tend not to get seen as their subjects, but as images, much more often than happens with color images. Still, I don't take that abstractness as license to aggressively edit in post without indicating I've done so....


I have noticed that sometimes old images taken normally simply don’t look like “Sally” and have wondered why.  Was Sally in a bad mood, was there something wrong with the camera.  Post processing was not the issue as none of whom I knew had any idea of how to post process or even manipulate film.

I came to the conclusion that our eye-image is being automatically sorted out for perspective. Our brain is very good at that. We are very good at knowing horizontals and verticals.  This is how we navigate our way and are able to stay upright.

We have probably all been through trick buildings where horizontals and verticals are muddled - it usually is accompanied by some difficulty in staying upright.

Furthermore with tall buildings and our navigation skills we don’t even notice perspective unless we concentrate our mind on it. This leaves us with two perceptions in our mind - the laid back low processing based on what our mind feeds us as we navigate about.  Which is quickly lost.  Short term memory? Where sometimes we cannot remember the detail of a hum drum passage and yet somehow we made the trip A to B unscathed.   But we can deliberately focus our mind on a scene - we now can very obviously see perspective and remember it.

If we know Sally very well our mind forms a picture of what Sally is like at any given age.  We remember from sitting, standing, talking, understanding from a certain perspective and  the focal length and focus of our eyes.

I think that photographs of people, as they are, are images of a person at a moment in time seen by a camera from a certain angle and focal length.  Sometimes it is quite possible that the image of Sally might be too real for our brain to interpret that perspective. A perspective of Sally fixed in time that we might never have seen to remember her by.

Obviously a video with movement and sound would make it much easier to recognise as there would be many clues to help our brain recognition and even if some perspectives were unusual there would be plenty of instances where our brain said “that’s Sally”.

I keep returning to the late great Gary Winogrand’s remark: “I take photographs to see what things look like when photographed”.  Most perceptive.  Photography makes your audience see what you have seen and register the image in their brain.  It is very quick, it only takes a fraction of  asecond.

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Tom Caldwell

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