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The lost art of real photography | Pennsylvania Documentary Photography
I was admiring a photo on Instagram the other day and tried to imagine how the photographer was talented enough to capture an entire family in silhouette in front of the most amazing sunset. Honestly, those photos make me doubt my photography skills a bit even though those type of images are not my style. It turned out the photographer was talented enough to capture the family in one take but the sunset was an overlay she added later. In other words, the photo, like many you see today, was an enhanced image and therefore an inaccurate view of reality.
Many times even those amazing sun flares we photographers swoon over are, in fact, fake and were never even in the original, out of camera, image. It is unfortunate that I know find myself looking at a photo, admiring it and the wondering “I wonder if that sunflare or those bubbles were actually there or if the photographer added them in Photoshop.”
Yes, I edit my photos, such as lowering highlights or adding some color, which is often needed in the RAW format I shoot in, but, no, I don’t add skies or elements that weren’t there in the first place. I won’t say I never have done this, because I have, once or twice. In fact, I recently edited a child out of a photo because he wasn’t mine and the image was stronger without him. I immediately felt guilty at having changed the reality of the moment and essentially erasing a person because they didn’t fit my idea of how I wanted to remember that moment.
The problem with all this editing and adding elements that were never there is photographers have only added to the world’s already warped idea of perfection. Little girls and boys today grow up believing they have to look a certain way because that’s how the women and men in the magazines look. If only all young girls and boys, and even women and men, understood that photos in the magazines are often manipulated to the point that who you see on the page is not who you would see if you were to bump into these women and men on the street.
I can’t even imagine how difficult life is for the person in the photograph because they are expected to always look like the woman or man the photo editor created.
Many photo editors are insanely talented and true artists. Their work and their ability to transform the photos a photographer has taken is to be commended. What I hope many will remember is that their final creation is not always reality.
I edit my photos by enhancing colors or converting to black and white and darkening and brightening shadows to bring my vision into focus. I very rarely remove or add elements (people, pets, bubbles, sunsets) that were or were not there. If I do I feel uneasy, as I mentioned above.
It isn’t that I believe my more minimalist style of editing makes me better than photographers and photo editors who take editing to the extreme. Not at all. It’s simply my style of photography. I believe both styles are art.
I choose to keep my images as true to reality as I can. Maybe that’s because I understand how harmful an altered perception of reality can be to our society as a whole, not only the youth. Maybe it’s also because I was trained as a journalist to report the truth, the good and bad, because by doing that you present an accurate account for historical purposes. I know that many reading this may scoff at the idea of journalists today being accurate in their reporting and I’ll leave my comments on that for another day because that is an entire blog post in itself.
Even though I prefer my images to be more documentary, I can’t deny the art behind the heavily edited or manipulated image, so I hope it doesn’t sound like I am condemning those images. Manipulating and changing a photograph can help the artist create their vision and I recognize and absolutely understand that. I do, however, see the unfortunate side affect of the viewer believing the image is real and I think that if a photograph has been manipulated that much the photographer or photo editor should be willing to say they manipulated the image.
The camera is much more than a recording apparatus, it is a medium via which messages reach us from another world.
This post is part of 99 days of blogging with Melissa Firman
Hey, mama, you got this!
Hey, mama. Did you just have a c-section, or maybe just a rough labor? First of all, don’t compare yourselves to other moms and say “She’s up and around and had her baby a week ago. I should be doing the same thing!”
Every mama is different because each body is different. Let your body heal. Let your soul heal and rest. Enjoy your new baby and know that the healthier you are, the better you can care for your baby. I want to repeat: enjoy your baby. Your house doesn’t have to look perfect for the in-laws.
You don’t have to cook. Order food in or make something simple, or ask a family member to make you something special. You aren’t in this alone.
There are many, many other moms out there who know just what you’re going through. Find some and know that even if they “look perfect” that doesn’t mean they are.
Their house is dirty sometimes. Sometimes they yell at their children. Sometimes they cry. No matter what their Facebook or Instagram shows, their lives are not all sun and white walls. You’ve got this, mama!
Your body grew a human being! It may even be feeding your baby right now, as you hold your baby outside of the womb. You’re incredible even in the toughest moments when you feel like you can’t do anything right and you’re clueless.
I’ll let you in on a secret – most moms feel clueless and are simply flying by the seat of their pants. Take it one day at a time.
All you have to do is love your baby because in the end, that’s all that matters.
This mom stuff is hard
“I’m a horrible mom!” I sobbed into the phone at my mom while waiting for a call back from the triage nurse. It’s not the first time I’d said these words and I’m sure it won’t be the last, even though I know it should be.
It was the second time we’d called the number in a week, both times for my 15 month old daughter we have affectionately, and aptly, nicknamed The Hurricane.
The first time we called she had fallen off the back of the couch, her favorite spot to perch on, much to the disapproval of her dad and I. On the way to the floor she cracked her head on a bookcase.
She cried and was fine within minutes, even though I had been sure we would be holding back blood on our way to the hospital. We called the nurse on call and I woke up 20 times that night to check on her. She was fine and was left with only a small bruise above her eye. Ten minutes after she fell, in fact, she was trying to climb the couch again.
The second call involved her walking out of the bathroom and toward me, down the upstairs hallway, with an empty bottle of allergy medicine in her hand and a thoughtful look on her face. It was a bottle which had previously been partially full. Apparently it fell off the counter and the lid was either placed in crooked or not tight enough. I had left the bathroom, expecting her to follow me.
Why would a 15 month old follow their mom if there is so much they can get into in the bathroom?
I had pretty much convinced myself she’d been poisoned, but the nurse on call and Peggy at Poison Control felt, based on the fact much of the bottle had been poured on the floor, that our little girl would be okay. And she was, despite trying twice to do a somersault of the end of her brother’s bed while I was on the phone with the triage nurse.
She also emptied my entire box of feminine pads while I was on the phone telling her dad what Poison Control had said and spread them across the bathroom floor, as if she was redecorating.
I often tell myself I’m horrible at this mothering job. What’s worse is I utter it out loud. A lot. In front of my children.
Being a mom is not a job I ever thought I would have. As a teenager I imagined myself traveling the world, photographing wars and famine and the beauty of nature, not raising babies in a small town only 45 minutes from where I grew up.
But, here I am, a mom.
And many days I question what God was thinking giving these poor children a mother like me.
The day the baby eats cat food off the kitchen island and my son feels ignored because I was chatting on Facebook longer than I intended. The day I yell at the elderly dog because he nipped the baby when she sat on him. The day I sighed heavily when my son talked about Minecraft again, making him feel like what he says isn’t important or of interest to him. Those days are the days I wonder what I’m doing as the mother of these two beautiful and amazing children.
Jonathan and my favorite movie these days is ‘Mom’s Night Out’ and toward the end of the movie Trace Atkins, playing a tattoo artist named Bones, tells the main character; “You all spend so much time beating yourselves up, it must be exhausting. Let me tell you something, girl. I doubt the good Lord made a mistake giving your kiddos the mama he did. So you just be you. He’ll take care of the rest.”
Oh Lord, it’s why I pray, so often throughout my days: “Fill in the gaps where I fail. Help me care for these children they way you’ve called me to. And most of all, please, Lord, don’t let me completely scar them for life.”
My brother chooses a word at the beginning of each year to set the tone for the upcoming year. He does this in conjunction with another blog and this year he chose the word reinvigorate. I thought the suggestion to choose a word for the year was sort of dumb, if I’m being honest. Still, when I started to think what words I wanted to choose as I moved forward into a new year, it only took me 30 seconds to know what words I needed: Peace and simplicity.
I complicate my life so much and when I do that I lose my inner peace. I lose sight of the peace that only Christ can give and let it be replaced by the chaos of the circumstances around me.
To have both peace and simplicity I want to work on blaming myself less for accidents, recognizing what is my responsibility and what isn’t, and most of all being less hard on myself as a mother.
So, if you could choose a word, right now, even if it is the middle of the year, what word, or words, would you choose?