Monday, September 23, 2013

Manipulation as Art

I’m talking about Vision, of course, but also about Verb...which I’ll get to in a minute.

Many eons ago, back when digital photography was first taking off,  I had a most interesting conversation with sister Ruth about pure, unadulterated photography vs. the kind of manipulated photos we see nowadays using textures, blurs, selective coloring, HDR, etc.   Photography like what you see above (from the Budapest subway).

[I’m not talking about basic tweaks with straightening, contrast, shadows and sharpening.  As a professional photographer once told me, that’s not considered “manipulation.”  It’s…expected.]

As Ruth and I talked back then, she made no secret of the fact she was not a fan of photo manipulation.  At all.  Furthermore, she mentioned that our big-time photography nephew agreed with her…back then.  Pure, unadulterated photography.  That’s the real photography.

As one terribly prone to being swayed by “what people think,” I was devastated.  Here I was, older sister and aunt and wannabe photographer, succumbing to the evils of cheap art.  I nearly nose-dived myself into a hellish depression.

How epiphanies come out of the blue (do they?), I don’t know.  But within short order an AHA! came that, thankfully, pulled me out of my slough of despond.

“Think about it this way,” I said to Ruth back then.  “You’re a poet in your own right.  A published poet.  A lauded poet.  Loved by many.  But some of us don’t always like it, ‘get’ it, or read it.  Sometimes it takes too much energy.  We just want the pure, unadulterated written word.  The real conversation as it happened.”

That’s when it dawned on me that poetry is language manipulation.  Isn’t it?  It’s not always easy on the eyes or clear or understood or swallowed whole.  Or it IS, depending on the eye of the beholder!  It’s an art in its own right, whether we like it or not.  The lucky ones go down in history as our heroes and mentors.  Ruth is becoming one of them herself, truth be told.  And the more I read her, the more I understand her…just as I do some of you who have the gift.

Actually, my guess is that many photography purists dabble in digital manipulation these days, having gotten over the hump, like Ruth, venturing into their own path of “tools of the trade.”  It’s not that we/they have to “get with the program” as much as just acknowledging we’re not living in the same world anymore. 

Which reminds me of brother Bennett (who died in 1996 at age 47), a professional film photographer before the age of digital who did his own manipulations in the dark room with the solarisation technique.  I still remember his negatives becoming silk-screen templates placed on top of each other to create one image.  He was a master at film-photo manipulation. 

Maybe when it comes down to it we’re all manipulators in one way, shape, form or another?  It may not be digital or verbal, premeditated or controlled.  But deep down I bet something very creative, artistic, human and soulful guides us skillfully to alter and edit Life as we know it in order to navigate this world today. 
Sometimes, if we admit it, we just do it because we can and because it’s fun.

Don’t you wonder what it all will look like a few years down the road…if we get to live that long?!

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