Monday, May 04, 2009

The Photo Line

The CONTACT Photography Festival is now going on in Toronto. It runs all May at various locations around the city. And of course they have a Flickr pool. Now, the Flickr pool isn't necessarily the works shown throughout the city, but more aimed at the photos of those who attend, and some Blackberry pics from a few artists.

But I wonder when you stop calling a photograph a photograph. The majority of what's done today is digital, and most digital photos get some post-processing done. Post isn't something new to the world of photography, as colour adjustments, contrast, brightness, and image tweaking and editing was done for decades in the darkroom. The process has just become easier and less physical. So I don't have an issue with someone adjusting the colours to match their memory of the scene, or to create a hyper-real spectrum.

But what about when you start adding more effects? When you alter the photo to look like a mosaic or stained glass? What about a Fresco effect or a digital alteration of the canvas? At what point has the image gone from being a photograph to something more akin to a painting? When you start wondering if a picture is actually a moment frozen in time or the artist's interpretation of that moment, does its base medium change? Does the lack of a physical development process alter our perspective of the medium? Is this, once again, an example of McLuhan's medium being the message?

If so, is it not strangely quaint that it is photography that brings this to light? McLuhan's theories are often applied to television, the Internet, and other "new" media, but here is one of the most familiar forms of visual expression entering the fray due to the modern tools available. Somehow, I think Marshall would approve.

1 comment:

OhCaptain said...

I agree with you that the definitions of photography and graphic arts are becoming increasingly blurred. In my work, I do very little post processing. My shots from Eh Vegas had some in that my sensor apparently wanted to bring some of Canada back with it and was keeping lit bits of it all over it's surface. But then again, this something I would fixed in the darkroom as well.

There are still some of us practicing the art of 'as shot' but the numbers are dwindling. You can still do it, but being noticed is getting harder.

I enjoy the challenge of not post processing but shooting it right the first time. Probably why I also burn through memory cards like some people burn through cash on Full Tilt. I keep taking the shot until I get it right in the camera. For that, I love digital.