Day 30- Photoshop

Roosevelt Island Tram

I used to be a purist. The last time I operated an SLR it was a Pentax K1000. This camera is so manual, it does not even need a battery. The only thing that required any technology on the K1000 was the exposure meter, which was a horizontal bar you could see through the viewfinder- like, well, a meter. If it was flat, your image was likely well exposed, high- overexposed, etc…
During my college photo classes I was taught that if you didn’t literally get your hands dirty developing an image, it wasn’t your image- Ansel Adams was the go-to example for how the artistry was in the print, not necessarily the negative. I remember when burning actually required cutting holes in pieces of cardboard and moving them across the developer, very quickly and very precisely. You were able to manipulate your photo somewhat, but light was light, and the negative either transmitted it, or it did not.
I, beyond many others, reveled in the purism: I tried to frame all my shots perfectly in the camera; I never considered making a print if the exposure didn’t look perfect on the contact sheet; I even used a special holder for my negative that allowed light in on the sides, proving that the image was not cropped in any way. After a while, all this got exhausting. My old equipment started to break down and I couldn’t afford to fix it. It took me a little too long to compose an image, especially of fast-moving subjects. A perfect image required such a level of perfection that I literally did not have the time and money to achieve it (for example finding darkroom time and space.) I abandoned photography.
After many years of no photographic documentation whatsoever (I actually backpacked through Europe without taking a single picture) I acquired a digital point and shoot. This was fine for a while, but the photographer in me began to get itchy, and to demand more control. A little over a year ago I got a digital SLR. This took some adjustment. I actually went to the photo store I used to frequent and asked the sales clerk for a neutral density filter. He looked at me as if I was from Mars. “Photoshop” was all he said.
Working with digital has been extremely freeing. To me, all digital images are manipulated, by the very nature of changing what was light to something electronic- a pixel. Because of this, I feel free to play to my heart’s content. Some images, like Lost Leaf, I do not touch. They represent a found object, a moment I am hoping to convey exactly as I saw it. Other images however, like today’s shot, are created almost entirely outside of the camera.
To me the Roosevelt Island tram seems oddly nostalgic, like a relic of a World’s Fair: a once exciting, but now outdated technology. Outside of the camera I was able to create, and hopefully convey, this impression. Exploring this interpretive side of photography has been a joy. I hope you stay patient with me as I perhaps go too far (with layers, and effects, and filters), until I hopefully find my voice in this, practically new, medium.

2 responses to “Day 30- Photoshop

  1. You have achieved the nostalgic effect you were aiming for with the Roosevelt Island Tram. Your whole topic captured my attention because I’ve been trying to write a post stating my feelings on this very topic. Interpreting and changing my photography is usually a non-topic for me. It’s what I like to do. I recently gave a picture of a barn to which I had added morning fog to a friend who is a photographic purist. Live and let live gave way to the slight urge to defend the fog!

    • I am in total agreement with you, since I feel like most digital pics, even the “un-processed” ones are processed. Those are just processed by the camera, not by you. Obviously there is a line you cross when you put something into the pic that wasn’t there before, but as long as the image is honest about that, I think it adds to the artistry.

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