Earlier this week I was forwarded a link to a blog post highlighting “X number of most breathtaking landscape photos” and every single image seemed to be post-processed in an over powering manner. The question arose in my mind, “Is digital post-production killing photography?” I then dissected the question I posed to myself… What assumptions was I making about nature and landscape photography? What sense of “normal” was I comparing these images to? What roll does digital post-processing play versus traditional film post-processing?
My initial thought to myself was a gut reaction to my personal dislike for the creative choices made in many of the images contained in the post I was pointed to. I’m all for individual interpretation in nature and landscape photography, after all it is the individual interpretation we bring to the scene that differentiates our creative vision from others. I then remembered many comments I’ve seen by commenters on this blog and other forums reflecting the common myth that our cameras some how capture a pure version of a nature or landscape subject. Most commonly Ansel Adams is invoked as the paragon of nature and landscape purism in such debates. I’ve always found this amusing knowing Ansel in his own right so heavily manipulated his images in the dark room. Yet somehow this is unknown or memory of this information has been lost by many photographers. Since his passing, the work of Ansel Adams has been placed on a very high pedestal.
Then yesterday I stumbled across a BBC program from 1983 titled “Master Photographers” on YouTube and there is a great 4 part interview with Ansel Adams where he so eloquently and clearly states how important pre-visualization and “intentional manipulation” is to his work. Pay special attention to Part II of this series containing the following quotes:
At 50 sec:
“None of my images are realistic in terms of values… it’s intentional manipulation”
At 4 min:
“The negative is the composer’s score, all the information is there. The print is the performance, so you interpret the score at various aesthetic emotional levels, but never far enough away dividing the original concept.”
Regarding the digital revolution that he recognized as being on the horizon…
At 7 min:
“The thing that excites me is that in not too many years we’re going to have a entirely new medium of expression with the electronic image. I’ve seen what can happen to a print reproduced by the laser scanner and how that is enhanced and that is just the beginning. … and I know the potential is there and I know its going to be wonderful. Well in that sense the negatives for these photographs as an example will take the place of a fresh kabal they are….personal or some early composer will then be reinterpreted through a fresh medium and I think that is marvelous.”
I highly recommend watching all (4) four videos and keep the knowledge shared in your back pocket as you think about your own photography. Part II of these videos is pure gold and is worthy of listening to often.
[tags]photography, Ansel Adams, visualization, manipulation, Master Photographers, BBC, nature, landscape[/tags]