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Photography DiscussionThe Ethics of Landscape Photography - Article for Discussion

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St3v3M
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Re: The Ethics of Landscape Photography - Article for Discussion

Post by St3v3M » Tue Dec 19, 2017 4:16 am

Women wear makeup, men manicure their lawns, and we give Likes to everything on Facebook so it's interesting to read this man's view about ethics in photography and post-processing when we all wear the masks of who we want to be and think nothing of it. Somehow I missed this wonderful discussion and have come to the party quite late, but hope you'll let me join in as well!

I found the article a good reminder to do no harm, but thought the rest pretentious, especially as pointed out that he has deceived the viewer with his slow shutter speeds and no explanation to the fact. I've asked the author as much in the comments below the article and will be curious to see how he replies.

There are different ethics for different parts of the world, but the curious thing about them is that like its cousin morals we all have them one way or another. And as much as I have stepped off trail in the past and moved things to make a shot better I agree it's best to do no harm but to say that it's wrong to move a leaf or a blade of grass and that by doing so is wrong is just wrong. If your purpose is to document the event as stated then, by all means, find a way around the obstacle or include it in the image, otherwise photography is an art form and should be treated as such.

The best example of Do No Harm I've encountered are the Seven Principles Of Leave No Trace. If your purpose is to deceive the viewer then the article stands but you're only lying to yourself. It's the artist job to tell the best story we can and if that means we move a leaf then move a leaf, what harm was done? Was there some trash, or a bird in the way, then clone it out. There's a line between what we see and what we present, that line is different from one person to another, as is the need to tell the viewer as much. Ethics are personal and as long as you do no harm it's not mine to judge.

As a side, I also found this Ethics From Empathy and thought it interesting there was a similar article on the subject. S-
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Post by LindaShorey » Tue Dec 19, 2017 2:35 pm

St3v3M wrote:
LindaShorey wrote:I found the article to be well written and rich with food for thought. The term "willfully deceive" the viewer resonates with me because it's how I feel about composites that are not revealed as such. And yes, this feeling is contradictory to how I feel about edits that "enhance" a scene.
...
But this topic of yours will remind me to consider a bit more thoughtfully in the future about whether or not a viewer might feel deceived about any of my edits.

Having come to this late I wonder if your opinions have changed with your current posts? S-


Nope :D The composites are posted in artistic expression and the ones with "just" enhancements are not. Your question does raise an interesting thought about whether someone who does very little post processing would be more likely to feel deceived than someone who edits more extensively. And also what that person's experience is with photo forums. On the fred miranda website forums, it seems that over-saturation and long exposures for soft water are well accepted, but otherwise the photos don't have manipulations such as textures (or if they do, they are very subtle), except in the "digital art" section.
"What's important in a photograph and what isn't." http://photographylife.com/whats-import ... -what-isnt

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Post by St3v3M » Tue Dec 19, 2017 3:20 pm

LindaShorey wrote:Nope :D The composites are posted in artistic expression and the ones with "just" enhancements are not. Your question does raise an interesting thought about whether someone who does very little post processing would be more likely to feel deceived than someone who edits more extensively. And also what that person's experience is with photo forums. On the fred miranda website forums, it seems that over-saturation and long exposures for soft water are well accepted, but otherwise the photos don't have manipulations such as textures (or if they do, they are very subtle), except in the "digital art" section.

The Fred Mirand Forum has some beautiful work and I'm sure every site has its own theme, but you are right about the question. It seems that some people believe that every image is a possible fake while others hold on to the reality that everything must be pure and how it is, sort of like how we look at life I guess.

I wonder if it has to do with our nature, our education, or both? The same question is asked about many things though so it's more to think about! S-
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Post by Charles Haacker » Tue Dec 19, 2017 6:13 pm

I begin to wonder if we are overthinking it. Is it an angels-dancing-head-of-a-pin disputation? I will continue to assert that painters (and painters go back some 40,000+ years that we know of)... Painters can paint it in, or leave it out. Painters can paint trompe-l'œil, deliberately photographic, forced perspective, and people applaud or Marcel Duchamp can paint what he claims is a nude descending a staircase and, for many, they don’t know what the heck it’s supposed t’be without the little card on the wall, and even then many will step back and scratch the back of the neck and say, oh yeah? Well, hunh! (I appreciate both, actually.) But the great question is, Do We Expect Painters to Paint Reality? (I personally do not think so.)

Photography is an art form. There are different categories of photography just as there are different categories of other art forms. I think it’s well established that photojournalism, while still (I think) an art in the hands of masters, can not, must not be manipulated and still be photojournalism, but let me suggest that some of the finest photojournalism has been manipulated to an extent, sometimes deliberately, sometimes accidentally.
During the Civil War both Alexander Gardner and Timothy O’Sullivan were accused of moving bodies and/or weapons, even to the extent of supplying their own rifles (Gardner's weapon is easily identified in many scenes) to make a picture more “realistic.” Today their credentials would be revoked. Conversely Bob Capa stormed ashore with the first wave on D-Day in WW2 with his Leica (the only civilian photographer to do so, my dad included) and spent hours under literally killing fire desperately documenting history, sending 4 rolls back to London’s LIFE office. Due to unfortunate haste on the part of a lab tech all but 11 frames were destroyed, and those 11 survivors were mangled. The great irony of course is that those 11 grainy, fuzzy, under-any-other-circumstances-not-to-be-bothered-with frames are some of the most famous in all photojournalism, and I would argue that they are High Art. I would further argue that that is Because they are otherwise “ruined.” I think they show, better than a nice sharp clear picture, the chaos, terror, blood, and death.
...[Capa's] photographs—infused with jarring movement from the center of that brutal assault—gave the public an American soldier’s view of the dangers of war. The soldier in this case was Private First Class Huston Riley, who after the Nazis shelled his landing craft jumped into water so deep that he had to walk along the bottom until he could hold his breath no more. When he activated his Navy M-26 belt life preservers and floated to the surface, Riley became a target for the guns and artillery shells mowing down his comrades. Struck several times, the 22-year-old soldier took about half an hour to reach the Normandy shore. Capa took this photo of him in the surf and then with the assistance of a sergeant helped Riley, who later recalled thinking, “What the hell is this guy doing here? I can’t believe it. Here’s a cameraman on the shore.” (Time-Life)

I suppose that what Gardner and O'Sullivan and undoubtedly many others did, long before hand-held cameras, was "willful deception," except they were trying to document for a public clamoring for news the horrors of war after the fact with the most cumbersome equipment.* Sketch artists working for Frank Leslie's Weekly needed only a sketch pad and a pencil and they could work very fast, even sketching from the sidelines of a battle-in-progress. Still, they could also make instant decisions about what to include and what to exclude. We have discussed before that all 2-dimensional art has a frame. What the artist/photographer chooses to frame in --- or frame out --- makes an enormous difference in the story told.
Piet wrote:Just because the artist is using a camera instead of a brush, it does not force a set of requirements on him that would be missing if he were using a brush. And even an "honest" photo can lie by omission.

But most of us here on Mentoris are not working photojournalists under the ethical diktats of a style book; I would submit that we are artists and therefore "free." One of us had (still has?) a signature line that ran something like, "It's your picture; do what you like to it." So if I add or move a seagull, or clone out a fire hydrant, am I obligated, ethically, morally, artistically, to fully disclose that I did that? Why? Whatever happened to "artistic license?"

There may be folks right here on the site who would say that yes, I DO have a moral and ethical obligation to tell the truth since I am presenting a picture that, by virtue of Saint Photoshop, does not. Okay. But then there's the mysterious case of the repositioned leaf. The leaf was not within the frame so [someone] moved it so it was. It was not there by virtue of wind or act of god; it was placed there, moved from somewhere else. It improved the composition. Must I tell? I didn't take a saw or an axe to something, I did no harm except for the highly theoretical butterfly effect that may or may not cause chaos on the other side of the world at some indeterminate time because I moved a frickin' leaf f'cryin' out loud?? Give me a break! How do we deal with the "ethical dilemma" if I, say, carry a baggie of favorite leaves and drop them pleasingly into scenes. Or along my hike into the chosen site I pick up pretty colorful leaves as I go, then position them for effect? To be clear I am not talking about 'shopping them in, but rather schlepping them in. If I do it am I wicked and evil? Why? If I set up my easel and paint in leaves that were not already there...?! (Jus' askin'.)

If that sounds belligerent it is not, merely frustrated and then only sometimes. This seems ultimately a discussion about reality. But what exactly is reality? There are arguments running today, the 21st flippin' century (!!) that there may be no "reality" at all, everything and everywhere we think we are is illusion, Plato's shadows on the wall (yes, I'm rereading the hull thread for perspective). We are in a computer simulation, yada &c. So if we call reality itself into question, then what is art? Is art a representation of a non-existent reality (Zen much there, dude)?
Steve wrote:What you shoot is what you see, what you edit is what you want others to see, the difference is the story you present. S-

Is that true? In my case (only jus' me) I shoot what I think I see and edit to what I think I saw.
OK, that's waaaaaay more than enough. I have yapped too long and now the wheels have come off... :spank:

*(Mathew Brady attempted to document actual battle at First Bull Run. His dark tent was so peppered with shrapnel holes that plates were fogged. He was so close to the action he was nearly captured. Wet plates + hot fighting = not good situation.)
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Post by St3v3M » Tue Dec 19, 2017 6:43 pm

Charles Haacker wrote:I begin to wonder if we are overthinking it. Is it an angels-dancing-head-of-a-pin disputation? ...

I agree and I don't that painters and photographers are similar, where I differ is the perception that painters make an image while photographers take an image. I know of course that postprocessing has the power to turn what you take into something that you make, and there is where I steer back again, but for most people, at least for the argument here I tend to think Take versus Make.

I agree too that photography is an artform, and a craft, where the one leads to the other and back again, but for this argument, I live for the art of it and the allowance of art to show the story of the artist rather than the reality that was. Reality is well and good, but art takes you to a place where emotion reigns the spirit. In deference to the statement, photojournalism is the exception where the truth must be maintained, but even then an adjustment in composition can change everything, even opinions.

I think the ethical dilemma, like most things, is confused between the intent of the maker and the preconceived notions of the viewer. We show an image to tell a story, but people read that story with their own built-in needs and biases. I don't believe most people make an image to deceive, it's more entertainment than anything, but there are those that believe any change is wrong. What those people don't always understand though is that the photographer, and the painter, have already made changes to the scene the moment it was taken by the way they compose it; where they stand, how they stand, where they aim it, what they include and don't include, what time they take it, and so many other factors. A photograph is a two-dimensional snapshot of time, art is a whole other thing.

Never stop yapping or using your Artistic license! S-
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Post by Duck » Tue Dec 19, 2017 8:49 pm

Many of the debates on whether photography is art stems from photographers of many disciplines looking to lay claim to it. The problem is that photography straddles many disciplines to fit comfortably into any one single category. Photography is an art tool. It is also a documentary tool, and a scientific tool, and a utilitarian tool and (specially today) a communicative tool. Each person who uses photography for one discipline, but not the other, and has a passion for that one discipline may feel a twinge of jealousy because their tool of choice isn't being utilized in the way (they perceive) it should be used.

The other aspect on photography that is often dismissed (or overlook or maybe not acknowledged) is that as long as there is a human operator, the camera is a two way conversation and that conversation will always be influenced by the creator just as much as by the subject it's pointed at. This influence comes in many names; creative license, visual voice, selective sensorship, artistic interpretation, and so forth.

As much as the photographer influences a scene, so does the viewer. Psychology plays a huge role in how we interpret what we look at in an image. We constantly project ourselves into the frame. Our moods, our biases, our ideals and more. Because of this, no two people can ever see the same image in the same way. Our past experiences influence us in ways we can't measure or comprehend. Experiences that will be different for the person standing next to you looking at that same image.

In sharing those feelings, ideals and experiences in discussions and critiques we can come to understand certain universal aspects of an image and, for some small part, align in understanding some apect of it. Unfortunately, with many images those tangents tend to be small and fragile connections of understanding. Where the bonds are stronger is when the photographer has created an image that touches on deeper rooted emotions that are more universal; love, fear, anger... but even then, we will attribute different origins to those emotions based on our own projections.
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Post by St3v3M » Tue Dec 19, 2017 9:00 pm

Duck wrote:...
As much as the photographer influences a scene, so does the viewer. ...

All of this was very well stated and a truth that spans many ways. Thank you for adding this! S-
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Post by Charles Haacker » Tue Dec 19, 2017 11:04 pm

Steve wrote:I think the ethical dilemma, like most things, is confused between the intent of the maker and the preconceived notions of the viewer. We show an image to tell a story, but people read that story with their own built-in needs and biases. I don't believe most people make an image to deceive, it's more entertainment than anything, but there are those that believe any change is wrong. What those people don't always understand though is that the photographer, and the painter, have already made changes to the scene the moment it was taken by the way they compose it; where they stand, how they stand, where they aim it, what they include and don't include, what time they take it, and so many other factors. A photograph is a two-dimensional snapshot of time, art is a whole other thing.

I went looking for good examples and found these, but what I really wanted and could not find was an example of a propaganda picture taken where something contradictory was framed out, maybe just alongside. I'd read about one recently but even a pretty diligent search could not locate it (something like an apparent "riot" going on flanked just out of frame by bewildered people --- the whole thing staged). Absolutely most people are not trying to deceive, but those that are find it ridiculously easy.
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Post by Charles Haacker » Tue Dec 19, 2017 11:04 pm

Duck wrote:As much as the photographer influences a scene, so does the viewer. Psychology plays a huge role in how we interpret what we look at in an image. We constantly project ourselves into the frame. Our moods, our biases, our ideals and more. Because of this, no two people can ever see the same image in the same way. Our past experiences influence us in ways we can't measure or comprehend. Experiences that will be different for the person standing next to you looking at that same image.

Hear, hear! :thanks:
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Post by St3v3M » Tue Dec 19, 2017 11:50 pm

Charles Haacker wrote:I went looking for good examples and found these, but what I really wanted and could not find was an example of a propaganda picture taken where something contradictory was framed out, maybe just alongside. I'd read about one recently but even a pretty diligent search could not locate it (something like an apparent "riot" going on flanked just out of frame by bewildered people --- the whole thing staged). Absolutely most people are not trying to deceive, but those that are find it ridiculously easy.

Something like this versus this? S-
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