What am I happy ‘fixing’ in photos?

Browsing the web, I came across a vanished web site – or more particularly, one that had been rescued and archived.

It was a concept of defining what was special about an unaltered image. It became known as the FoundView Movement.

As someone who’s professional photography career started relatively recently, I’d missed out on some of the kerfuffle about digital manipulation that was all the rage, only 10 years ago.

FoundView distinguished between digitally manipulated images (aka digital art) from photographs, and gave a way of labelling such photographs.

I found it interesting to read some of the site and decide where my own personal lines were in image manipulation – or even to see if there were any lines at all.

The simplest case for me is some of my commercial construction and architecture work. Often I’m producing images for progress reports, where the presence/absence of image components is part of the job brief. My role is to produce an image of record, I limit myself to ensuring that the image is taken and subsequently processed from the RAW image to clearly illustrate the scene.

The lines blur when a client wants to use the image for an annual report, brochure or press release. Does it become OK to remove the one guy in a hi-vis jacket that wandered into the shot in the distance?

Not one I’m having a difficulty with, and I know that quite a few of my images undergo considerable alteration after I deliver them to the client.

What about image composites, i.e. adding in part of another image.  Here I find my level of comfort going down.

Take for example, this view of the National Space Centre

Moonrise at the National Space Centre, Leicester

Moonrise at the National Space Centre, Leicester

The moon image was taken at the same time, but with a longer lens. The moon was also behind the Space centre at the time of the photograph.

The sky has been converted to a continuous tone and the intensity of the coloured lighting has been enhanced.

Keith Cooper and photographs at the Leicester tourist office

Keith Cooper and photographs at the Leicester tourist office

In fact it’s the most ‘fake’ image on the web site and I thought long and hard about including it.

What changed my mind was talking to the staff at the Tourist Office in Leicester. There are four of my photographs in a large mural, decorating the entrance to the building.

Here’s me with four of my images.

The space centre picture is above my head, with a spotlight illuminating the moon…

It turned out that the most popular image of the lot was the space centre one.

OK, that’s commercial photography – what about my landscape work?

Over the years I’ve decided that my landscape prints are artworks from photographs. They are usually manipulated for tone and contrast, but are still largely what you would have seen if you were there at the time.

Just what defines ‘largely’?

Well, I’ve removed the odd pylon and telegraph pole that distracted from the feeling I wanted to convey in the image. A few have had distant people airbrushed (cloned) out, but the one line I choose not to cross is replacement of skies or direct montages of multiple images.

My large prints are there to give an evocation of what it felt like (to me) to be at the scene. They are not meant to be used in planning applications.  A scene can be memorable for a lot of reasons, but sometimes when getting back and working on the image, I find a small item that -in a print- draws your attention to it in a way that it just didn’t at the time. Prime candidates for a touch of cloning.

This picture of a viaduct had a friends head, just jutting into the frame. He’s been expunged and the picture makes a popular print.

Viaduct at John O'Gaunt

Viaduct at John O'Gaunt

I’d suggest having a look at the FoundView site and seeing just what matters (if at all) to you in your own work?

A footnote…

The FoundView movement died and was replaced by TrustImage.  Unfortunately, this  seems to be a bit stuck in ‘site under construction’ mode.