Category Archives: Project 5 The Manipulated Image

Reflections of part one

I began this course not ever having thought much of what documentary photography was, in fact if asked I would have guessed and suggested that it was a form of photojournalism and probably a title given to a number of images pertaining to a news of magazine story.  I now understand that documentary photography has a much broader meaning and is very much linked to the Art photographer as describing their project work and I look forward to my next section.

I also learned that street photography / photojournalism is not that easy or straightforward, as I learned when I went out and about with my DSLR to take street style photographs.  Planning is always essential even if it is just arming yourself with some compositional ideas to find and photograph.

Exercise, project 5, it’s a fake!

In this exercise, my task is to create a fake documentary photograph.  An example of what now has become a very famous if not iconic phoney is that of the Tony Blair selfie, see  http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/oct/15/tony-blair-selfie-photo-op-imperial-war-museum

In order to conduct this exercise I first decided that rather than simply find pictures off the internet and blending them into a montage it would be fun to take a number of photos and create my own ‘constructed narrative’.

I first put down some ideas on paper, Ideas

from these I sketched out a couple of ideas, Sketches

I then chose from the sketches my preferred idea and as it was a single image I wrote out a rough storyboard.

Storyboard

I then set about preparing my set.  De-cluttering my kitchen, selecting various clothes to wear, additional lighting from a speedlite in a softbox and camera set on to a tripod.

I took a separate light meter reading using a handheld lightmeter that can measure ‘incident’ from flash and ambient to choose a setting for my speedlight and camera to give 30% from the speed light to keep a natural look.  Camera was set to manual, JPEG normal, W.B. – Sunny, ISO-250. 1/20sec, f/6.3.  Speedlight was connected via a Pocket Wizard and positioned left of camera approx. 45 degrees from subjects and I made some notes.  Storyboard

I usually photograph in RAW and use Lightroom to finish off; but as this was a montage I decided to let the camera save me the work and produce lower res imaged to work with.

I then loaded all these shots in to Adobe Photoshop Cloud and starting with the empty table and the background I loaded each image in turn using Open, select image to open and opening, Ctrl A, Ctrl C, Ctrl W, Ctrl V to add each image and create layers.  Then imaging if you will that the image with the empty table is at the bottom of the pile of layers, starting from the top layer and working down I then used the eraser tool to erase all the surrounding area around the subject or subjects introduced to the empty table until I had cleaned each up to only show the subject.  This I did by clicking on the eye symbol for all the layers I was not working on so when I used the eraser tool I was left with a chequerboard background.  When I had cleaned up all the layers except the last when I turned the eye symbols back on for each layer the subjects in each layer all started to appear on to the final untouched background layer.  Some final erasing in some small areas tidied up the full image.  I then flattened all the layers and resaved a JPEG version.

DSC_8287-resized

A documentary picture documenting Shaun brainstorms ideas for a documentary picture for his exercise.

Exercise, Project 5, ‘The real and the digital’.

Does digital technology change how we see photography as truth?’

In the book Photography a Critical Introduction (4th edition), Edited by Liz Wells  and published by Routledge, it is agued that digital technology is challenging the concept of the ‘real’ in modern photography.  With the development of digital media technology it is now possible to construct convincingly realistic images on computers.  Photographic manipulation is not new, it’s been around from the very beginning but what is new is the extent of what is now possible which also co-insides with the loss of a hard original negative.  With the ability to construct an image from scratch Roland Barthes‘, excepted conception of the nature of the photograph, that it is the result of an event in the world, evidence of a passing moment of time that was once but no-more is now becoming harder to defend and perhaps a new formal conception must now be linked to the nature of the twenty-first century digital image.

Liberation, 1991, Jean Baudrillard wrote, ‘the Gulf war did not take place’.  He was making a comment on the nature of the ‘real’ his argument that the Gulf war was in fact a combination of political, social and military action acted out in a kind of social and technical space.  David Campany also comments that almost a third of news photographs are from frame grabs off video film footage.  The point being made is that photography is a medium that is not autonomous or self-governing but inter-related to other medias and is more influenced by culturally than technologically.

Without an autonomous and self-governing system there is a lack of rock solid unchangeable definitions in photography which are now beginning to challenge some of the existing definitions in photography. For example the photographic practice of documentary photography is changing and a sub-genre of photography is now well established in the USA calling itself, ‘wedding photojournalism’.