Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Reportage Vs. Art

Jacub talks about most people viewing photography as reporting. I'm not sure that's true - clearly he does and many others do, but I have no idea of the percentages and am convinced it isn't the majority of serious photographers - see Chuck's comments.

Interestingly, the more dramatic the lighting, the more unique the weather, the more unusual the landscape, the more I want it to be "real" and not the result of someone's imagination and skill with Photoshop. Mind you, I don't tend to look at those kinds of image as fine art, more like the reportage that Jacub and BJ mention. One can still admire the luck and or skill or patience, perseverance and effort it took to get these kind of images, but one tends not to admire the image for itself.

John Wimberley has a wonderful image, "angel descending" which clearly isn't "real", unless you have rather unusual religious beliefs. As it happens this image was taken in a swimming pool but had he used Photoshop to create it, it would have been every bit as good. I don't imagine anyone criticizes him for not using a real angel (union rates being what they are).


Jakub said...

I really like the title of this entry.

You are right. Probably nobody expects the mentioned photography to show an angel. Still I like it.
The problem arises when the receiver of Your art expects to see something real and instead gets Your dream vision. Then he goes the same place and is disappointed.

The distinction between reportage and art is even more important when You participate in competition like World Press Photo. I consider there as unethical not only scenes with edited elements, but even "staged" ones.

There are different expectations for different situations. When somebody presents an art I don't care what he did to get the result (although sometimes I am curious). The situation changes when I see a photo assisting an article. If that one was changed to present for example twice as many people on meeting with president candidate I feel cheated. The difference is whether we want to show something what looks good (that's nothing bad in it, at all), or we want to tell a story.

The mental connection between a photography and a reportage is a result of photography being the most reliable way of registering reality. It is allowed in court rooms as an evidence. It is the only art capable of doing it.
Of course photography has also a second (or even first) face which is similar to painting.

My conclusion is that I admire good results whether they are edited or not, but the threshold of acceptable changes should depend on a context. It's obviously not a mathematic formula, but a case of morality.

Jakub said...

Meantime John Lehet has taken up the same topic. I really like a comment of David Bostedo there: