I know I’ve ‘mentioned’ this before, but it’s disturbing me even more so now.
I know that many will say, “you’re being a Luddite again, just accept it and move on”.
The thing is, while I really have no problem with advances in technology which enable new developements and techniques, I do have a serious problem with redefining art forms, genres, and styles to suite the technology and thus enabling the masses of talentedly challenged wannabes to ‘cover-up’ their lack of knowledge/expertise or skill/craftsmanship and talent then say “hey, anything goes”. Those same folk who pay for the miracle online ‘become an expert in 24 hours’ courses organised/collated/prepared by similarly talentedly challenged ex-pros who couldn’t ‘make it’ as photographers, became ‘expert teachers’ and thus opening the door to the ‘anything goes’ group. The ‘because it’s there and so I can’ people who use dire manipulation processes with total disregard to the appropriateness of the techniques for the genre.
I have been visiting tens of sites, photo albums and forums concerning monochrome Street Photography, which as most of you probably are aware of by now, is my particular ‘thing’. Now Street Photography is by definition the documenting and recording of the social atmosphere of our times for future generations. It’s all about how the human race works, prays and plays in a particular environment. It is the observation by the photographer of daily life around him, where ever he may be. Street Photography is a ‘straight/pure/true/honest’ un-manipulated representation of that tiny instant of time captured by the photographer for future generations.
Street photography is not the photographers take/interpretation of that instant. It is not a basis for ‘arty’ works that are no longer photographs but are now digitally enhanced graphic art pictures. Yes, now I’ll get jumped on by all and sundry. Those who will scream that all photography has always been manipulated from the time the photograph is framed in the camera to the final visual that is offered for viewing.
This is, of course, all true. It is the photographer’s ‘angle’ on what he sees through the viewfinder. That is his expertise+experience+talent that automatically come into play. That is his creative talent at work, whilst any post-processing is a moderate adjustment of light and composition that the camera/film/memory card, in all their wisdom, might have missed. The art of the Street Photographer is two-fold. Firstly, honest self-criticism and secondly, having the discipline in being able to stop adjusting before turning the photograph into an unrepresentative piece of digitally generated art (or often a digitally generated mess). The creatively talented photographer is aware of the fact that perhaps one out of tens of shots is a decent one. Studio photographers who have total control over what they shoot will take tens of shots to get ‘the shot’. Street photographers don’t have that luxury of total control. They need to anticipate>see>decide>shoot, all within a split second. There is no going back and/or repeating the shot, WYSIWYG-what you see is what you get, for better or for worse.
Today’s technology with it’s zillions of photoGRAPHIC possibilities such as all sorts of blur, colour, bokeh filters etc. The trillions of presets which are basically other photographers’ takes on the way things should look have truly, I believe, dumbed down the knowledge base. Yes, there have always been coloured filters, but an intimate knowledge of how/why/when they reacted with different films and/or colours is imperative. Today, the in-thing seems to be very high contrast great blobs of black and white with not much in-between. It’s a great technique to hide the ‘not right’ details in a photograph. ‘Photographers’ have forgotten, or perhaps they just don’t know, that between pure black and pure white there are 254 shades of grey. Street Photography is all about detail and all the 256 shades of the grey scale are needed to show that detail.
We are professing to be monochrome specialists but, how many of us think in monochrome. This too is something that has to be learned, after all everything we see is in colour. We have to be aware of how colours translate into a grey scale.
We have to know that 2 particular adjacent colours won’t blend into each other as a single blob of greyish. Shooting monochrome is a frame of mind and intentional. It is not having 500 coloured exposures on the card and then deciding that a certain shot is not working in colour, let’s do a mono. It doesn’t work that way. NEWS FLASH!! a lousy colour shot will usually be a lousy b/w shot. B/W is not there to ‘save’ bad colour shots
I’ve been talking here mainly about Monochrome but much of what I’ve said is just as relevant to Colour Photography. There are no short-cuts to knowledge/experience/skill/craftsmanship which are achieved with a long period of steep learning curve, blood, sweat and tears. Technology is a tool in the hands of the Artist and does not replace Natural Creative Talent. Everyone has some talent for something, whether it be an Art, Mathematics, Chess, Sport or whatever but, not everyone, including Photoshop has a talent for Photography. Some have it, many don’t, that’s just the way of it.