Informing Contexts - Subjective Traces, Spaces, Faces, Places
I started photography with an innocent expectation that I would resist the urge to edit my photographs and would certainly never entertain the use of photoshop and all the tricks and cheats that were synonymous with this 'get out of jail card' for photographers. However fast forward to the current day and my views and indeed practice are very different. As photographers we will have our own limits in terms of how much editing and manipulation we do and this must always be a personal choice. The majority of my digital photographs are never published now until they have been through both Lightroom and Photoshop. This is due to host of reasons from quality control, aesthetic improvements and a creative intent.
My research this week has included the work of Harry Shunk and Janos Kender who were part of a new art practice that emerged in the late 1950's using the medium of photography. In 1960 the French painter Yves Klein approached Shunk and Kender to help produce 'Saut dans le vide' (Leap into the Void).
The famous image shows Klein leaping into the void, with the stretched out tarpaulin, being removed through the composite photography skills applied by Shunk and Kender in the Darkroom. This image is clearly a manipulation, albeit the index and trace of reality make it believable. However the reason I have included it, is that for many years after this image was first shown, the names of Shunk and Kender were hardly mentioned, the credit instead resting with the artist Klein, who was deemed the author of the work. The fact this is a photograph was almost deemed secondary to the fact it was seen as art.
Commenting on the image David Campany said 'Photography can slip so easily between record and invention. However this slipperiness has come to be seen by curators, art writers and audiences as fascinating in itself, and key to our understanding of photography.' A powerful assertion that the 'liars' amongst us are helping, not hindering appreciation of photography.
As highlighted above when I look at my practice I am now comfortable with all types of editing and manipulation techniques if I think it will either add something to the image, or in the example below create something completely new.
With just the use of a single flash and josh stick this image was clearly 'created' with the merge of three separate images of smoke that I then duplicated to make the head of a viper appear. I have been overt in terms of my editing but if I compare this with the following image taken this week of a snowdrop, the editing is perhaps less obvious.
Through my choice of vantage point, cropping, chosen depth of field, focal point and editing in Lightroom means that the above image is only an artifice of what was in front of me. The fact there was a busy road just to my right and other street furniture is not reflected in this shot. Have I have used my skills to trick the viewer in the same way that I created a Viper out of smoke, or does the fact it has retained its likeness to reality make this more acceptable to some viewers.
For me photography is very much a form of art and I would hope that in today's world that the likes of Shunk and Kender's photography and editing skills would get the recognition they deserve alongside Klein's artistic intentions.
David Campany On Photographs - 2020 - Thames & Hudson - Page 46-47
1) Saut dans le vide - Harry Shunk and Janos Kender - 1960
2) Viper - Steve Rabone 2020
3) Better Days Ahead - Steve Rabone 2021