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Saturday, June 9, 2012
The Ethics of Editing
The lighthouse - left: artist's interpretation, right: original view.
The above shows a small project I was working on. It is a picture of the lighthouse on the wavebreaker at the tip of the harbour of Volendam. In the distance you can see Marken and a ferry boat heading for the Volendam harbour. When I took the picture I was struck by the stark symmetry of the stones and the lighthouse but couldn't do anything about the ugly steel and wood structure on the right hand side. So I photoshopped them away to see what it looks like without that structure. My Photoshop skills are not superb so this is not perfect but it clearly gives an impression. It's no Gursky (who extremely heavily edits his images to the point of complete fantasy) but I like the increased starkness. The right hand side of the above image shows the image without the editing. While a nice illustration, I remain ambivalent about such editing. Interestingly, while I was doing my cloning, Google Reader popped up the latest article on the Luminous Landscape by Peter Eastway. The article describes how the image was taken from a dull landscape to a sunbathed glowing hillscape. The sunspot on the nearby hill in that image is completely Photoshopped in. It never existed. The description of the treatment mirrors earlier ones on a castle in Italy and a rock formation in Australia. Especially the latter one makes me uncomfortable as the image never happened at the same moment. The sunlit rock is from a different image than the dramatic clouds. While it makes me uncomfortable, you can't argue with results. Eastway's images are quite dramatic and spectacular. Gursky's pictures sell for millions of dollars. So perhaps my ambivalence is holding me back. In the end the art is in making the artist's vision come out. This doesn't have to be limited by the drab reality of the conditions that were present at the moment of the taking of the picture. Most photographers will edit out jet contrails or overhead powerlines. At what point does this go over the line?