Recently a photographer who I greatly admire posted the following comment in an online forum " to be quite frank it seems as though there is less emphasis on photographic technique and more emphasis on how far right you can push the sliders in photoshop".
This is someone who knows knows what he is talking about and has demonstrated throughout his career that he can deliver the most powerful imagery even when challenged with conditions that would make us mere mortals shake in our boots. So when he speaks I stop what I am doing and listen.
When I reflect on his words in the context of where they were posted , I can agree with his position. However there are two aspects of this that I want to explore in this article. The first being contextual , by that I am referring to where and how Photographers and even artists get their appreciation of what is good or bad , right or wong , tasteful or distasteful . The second aspect lies in the discussion of the Art of photography and whether Photography is an art form or just a means of recording reality for future generations. If I am to really explore these topics in any depth then I will have to split this into two posts
The Incubation of a Photographer.
I want to examine the of the statement that goes like this "less emphasis on photographic technique and more emphasis on how far right you can push the sliders in photoshop". When i reflect on this I have to focus a bit on the context of where he is seeing these images and that place is online . To be specific "Facebook"; where the most insightful comment on the quality of an image is a "like". A place where the popularity of an image or person is reflected by how many "likes" they receive. Unfortunately Facebook has compressed everything that can be said or interpreted about an image into one solitary and simple process "A Like".
What does this say about the photographer whose audience is made up of persons whose singular response to his work is a "Like". It is clear to me that in this context , his/her value decision will be made on the basis of getting that "Like" . Their feedback is being provided by an anonymous group whose value system is unknown to them ,but whom they see rewarding other photographers with the golden "like". It goes to reason that If this is the yardstick that they are measuring the quality of their work by then they will eventually emulate the type of work that the group rewards and will assume that this is the path towards growth. If the anonymous judging panel is rewarding images in which the sliders in Photoshop have been pushed to the right and this is the measure of success then they will fall in step.
What should we do about this? Is this the path that we want to promote ? Should we step in and say something , provide guidance or is this even required ? In my opinion its a rather complex situation which has as its roots the old saying "You can take a horse to water but you can't make it drink".
The person has to be willing to or see the need to "drink" ,if they do not the exercise is a waste of time.
In my opinion if someone is truly interested in creating meaningful and impactful images they will seek out the forums that will provide guidance toward that goal . It does not matter if those forums are virtual (online groups, courses ) or physical (Seminars,Workshops,Photo groups). True growth can only be achieved opening up yourself to honest and meaningful critiques which of course are not provided in a "like" .