Your Photography is What You Make of it

Today’s Rant by Joe Farace

“Llamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.”—old Andean folk song

There’s an old Latin saying that, “Life isn’t given to anyone, but just given on loan to everyone.” When applied to my own photography I think this means that I should be spending my time making the kind of images that I like.

My personal belief is that the process of making photographs extends far beyond merely snapping a shutter. Manipulating images has been a part of the photographic process since Julia Margaret Cameron got her first camera, yet when computers get involved, it sets some purists hair on fire. The appearance of one of my automotive images, featured on the splash page pf this website, that I always says (jokingly) is from my LeRoy Neiman period generated some interesting comments from readers:

One reader wrote that, “Once you change an image it ceases to be a photograph, even if all you do is sharpen it.” I thought that was a bit strong until I read, “Resorting to Photoshop tricks just means you’re not a good enough photographer to actually capture the image.” Ouch, that one hurt but I especially enjoyed, “Let’s say you take a photograph and manipulate it in some software program. If the end result is 50% photograph and 50% manipulation, you are only half the photographer you think you are.”

One photojournalism fan put it this way, “Putting anything new in a photograph makes it an illustration. Taking objectionable items out does not debase its basic photographic nature.” So let me get this straight: Removing a telephone pole is, I assume, OK as was the case with a 1970’s Denver Post photo editor who airbrushed a prize winning bull’s photograph to hide its cojonés. I can tell you this; the bull’s owner was not amused because it appeared to devalue the value of this particular animal.

Then there was a comment that “Photoshopped images are drawings, not photographs.” After all these years of not being able to draw stick figures, I can finally draw! Mom would have been proud. Finally, there was this statement I sorta agree with, “Why don’t we just call it all Art or at least artful.”