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September 02, 2013  •  Leave a Comment


Pictures are used everyday by many people around the world, be it on billboards, newspapers, books, and you name it! It’s such an easy way to convey a whole story, instead of writing a few paragraphs; a picture or image can get your point across a whole lot faster. For the sake of art though, where do we draw the line, when it comes to editing and manipulating pictures?

If you would ask any old school photographer, a purist in other words, they would say that the only form of editing acceptable in their field is some light retouching to finish the picture. But now a days many pro and amateur photographers alike, resort to Photoshop and other tools to edit their pictures. This goes to such an extent that they use these tools to “ create “ an image rather than just putting the cherry on top, with some light editing.

These techniques are common and accepted from a commercial standpoint, where time and money are of utmost importance, but then the question still stands, what about the artistic value of photography that purists defend at all costs?

The old school photographers all state that an image should be perfected as shot, right out of the camera, and not on a computer. The beauty of photography consists of capturing the decisive moment, proper lighting, and spot on composition. These elements cannot be processed in a lab or computer. But wouldn’t that bring photography close to impossible?

Just think about it, how can a person consistently churn out perfect shots, in perfect lighting, and with no blemishes or what not? So many things to consider, if for example you are shooting outside or on location, well add another level of difficulty to that near impossible scenario. Not everybody can be as talented, or should I say determined, as Ansel Adams, this old school photographer would camp for days and weeks on end, at one location just waiting for the stars to align and capture his masterpiece.

Photography like any art form constantly changes and evolves, even back in the day these so called purists would stage their scenes, add props, and use external flashguns in order to manipulate the image they want to capture. So what is “ Pure photography “?

If you alter an image to such an extent that it no longer has any resemblance to the image captured right out of the camera, can you consider this as photography, or does it lean more towards the graphic design side of things? For me personally I would have to say no. Some light retouching or color balancing is not such an issue for me, but to go all out and for example add clouds to a landscape is not photography in its purest sense. Some may beg to differ, but then again, the world would be such a boring place if we all agreed, right?

To better understand this humdrum conundrum in the photography world, I’d like to give an example of what this war of ethics boils down to. Say for example you and a friend go for a photo walk, and both of you snap a picture of the same tree. Your picture has wonderful composition, color and perspective. Your shot needs little to no manipulation, in other words, right off the bat it stands on its own. Your friend’s shot is nothing special, a little boring actually. But then again your friend excels in photo manipulation. His image is transformed into a surrealistic piece of fine art. Can his heavily edited image be considered as pure photography, even though the original image was mundane and lackluster?

Well in the eyes of the masses, you both are considered photographers, so meaning to say that, any idiot with the cash to cough up a camera is a photographer? This might seem a little harsh, but this is just one of the many questions photographers ask concerning this issue.

As I mentioned earlier, photography is an ever-changing art form, new techniques and developments are constantly changing the medium. There will always be a timeframe where the legitimacy of the concerning technique or art is questioned. To put it simply, if there wouldn’t be change, we would all still be taking pictures with pinhole cameras, now that’s photography at its purest!


Article written by: CJC