The Big Debate

Every time I do a show or exhibition, (well almost every time) I get asked the question - is that natural or did you mess with it somehow?


What they mean is, is the image exactly as I took it without enhancement or did I use some digital jiggery pokery?


Well sometimes the answer is yes and sometimes it is no.  The thing is, I love to photograph a natural scene as much as the next photographer but while it's not exactly boring to present every image in its natural, unadulterated state, of course it isn't.. there are occasions when I want to add something to the image that I think works as art as well as photography.  I do treat photography as another art form.  Some still debate whether it is.


Perhaps I am more prone to 'mess' with the original image than other photographers because I have always had a strong interest in art.  I love to sketch and paint (usually abstracts) and there was a time when you'd find me up to my elbows in wax and dye creating batiks.  So I have an inherent fascination in taking a straight image and adding colour, texture and effects to take it somewhere else.


It doesn't always work, some images are best left well alone but now and again, a scene will shout to me 'give me a new look, I've been pictured in the same way for years and years, it's time for a digital makeover!' 


For example, Norwich market is the the oldest daily market in Europe.  It has probably been photographed a zillion times since almost the beginning (well not quite but close.)   People have always loved the atmosphere of markets, the brightly coloured canopies housing all the stalls.  So when I photographed the market, I struggled to find a new angle or new view point that hadn't already been used a million times before.  Instead, I took a very familiar scene and turned it into something still familiar but with different colouring and effect and it has turned out to be one of my bestselling images!


With modern technology and software it is possible to experiment endlessly and I never get tired of finding new ways to present my images.  


You will find with digital photography that even when you see what you believe to be a 'natural' scene, it will have been altered in some way by the photographer.  This isn't to be regarded as somehow 'wrong' or 'cheating' but a photographer is like any other workman/woman and if the tools are there to fix or enhance or add something then it would be strange and a bit silly not to fix it.  It doesn't denegrate their skill in anyway, it is simply a way to add to it.


Tampering with photographs isn't a new thing.  Even in the age of film photography a fair amount of alteration took place on occasion.. so please don't imagine it's only a modern creation.


Like every customer, every photographer will have their own opinion or preference as to what they want from their images.  


I have to say that after declaring 'I like my photography natural' many customers end up buying something that is photo art once it is explained to them. You don't buy something because you think you are a purist, you buy something because you love it.  All art and photography creates an emotional connection between the viewer and the image - the colours, the shape, the form, the place, a memory - there are so many factors when you look at an picture and decide whether you like it or not.


Check out the work of Nadav Kander if you want a  better known photographer than me to understand how photography works just as well as art. I am sure there are many others too.. go forth, investigate and experiment.


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