Some differences between
Photo artists use cameras simply to transport snapshots into image altering programs to create something art–like
The initial snapshot exists to be tampered with, led away from the chaste capture.
It’s frustrating to photo artists to snap a picture that begs to be left as is, like the header image on this page.
Image altering offers viewers who aren’t ordinarily interested in a particular subject the opportunity to reconsider.
“Whereas architectural photographers use special lenses to eliminate perspective distortion–to make parallel lines look parallel–Yankus achieves this effect by digital means.” — Paris Review
Photo artists are interested in “digital means”.
Document photographers aren’t.
2. The appeal of document photography relies on the viewer’s interest in the subject.
Unedited, or un-altered, photography records moments in time, makes statements. It reports. Document photographers are reporters who aren’t inclined to stray into image altering post-capture for the sake of artis(h)try. They want to get the unadulterated news out.
Instead of editing after the capture, document photographers pre-process (in other words, prepare).
“’You need to transform your eye into an objective tool in order to overcome this powerful imprint’”—a tendency to equate whiteness with beauty, taste, and classical ideals, and to see color as alien, sensual, and garish.”
Most document photography is black and white (that won’t last much longer, see New Yorker article for signs), dramatic light/shadow contrast, grave portraits. No-edit street photographers, as well as celebrity photographers, for the most part tend to serious, solemn, dark. Or some lens distortion. Black and white document portrait photographers do pre-alter:
Photographer Benjamin Rouse
Props. Poses. Lens angles. Tripods. The document photographer’s work is much pre-capture disruption of a subject, and ends when the button is pressed. Waking up before dawn to sit on a mountain waiting to “shoot” and “capture” a cheetah perfectly.
Photo artists apply light with software. Whatever was natural at the time of the capture is insignificant in photo altering.
These two types of photography are very different in intention, process, and presentation. The only shared aspect is a camera.
Taken by surprise
We didn’t see it coming. Everyone in the world was handed the equipment and (literally) skill to make document and art photography (pre and post process).
Because so many photographers today are kids, they don’t know that their photos and photo art have just about put an end to the wish of renowned and professional photographers.
The wish about talent was:
1. Talent or training is required to be a photographer and 2. Taking or making a beautiful photo places the camera technician at a skill level equal to that required in visual arts such as painting and sculpture. To begin with, there is no button on a paintbrush.
Observation: There’s less consensus among photographers and art critics about what constitutes good, or valid, photography than in any other form of art, profession, pursuit, or field of study.
Liking the theme
If a viewer of unretouched (document) photography likes pictures of a particular subject (undressed bodies, war-torn villages, country gardens), or a concept (Martin Parr’s bored couples, Sally Mann’s kids), it won’t matter if Dorothea Lang pushed the button or you did.
If the viewer isn’t interested in a subject, a photographer’s name, talent, fame, film, Fuji, training, tripod, renown, and good journalistic intentions fall flat.
Most of us imagine it’s artistry that is admired in document photography when in fact it’s appeal, or not, of subject, theme, concept.
Imagine that unfiltered nature photography is so boring to SV, a collector of photography, he could die when placed in front of it. His passion is old architecture, aerial, floods, carnivals, highway.
Not trees, flowers, or war, or celebrities in Vogue, or celebrities anywhere.
The fact that it’s Ansel Adams or Richard Avedon who captured the picture (to be fair, a machine captured the picture), then got fancy in a darkroom, used black and white film, means nothing to SV. It’s still celebrities and botany.
He likes the subjects below. Anyone can take the picture, he doesn’t care who shot it.
Photo: Kait Parker
Photo, Gay Block
Photo, Gina Wilkins
As an experiment, X asked some young adults (today’s great photographers) to image edit (filter) this Ansel Adams photo (below) any way they wanted, to see if he might appreciate the snapshot if transformed through digital tampering.
Photo: Ansel Adams
Staten Island is also.
Eggleston, Osinski, Mark, Doisneau, Erwitt, Gay Block, Maier, Mann, many, are exceptional only when the subject or concept is exceptionally interesting to the viewer.
Here at Jessie Carveth Center we love Staten Island. Professional photographer Christine Osinski does, too. She went there for a shoot. We were so happy.
What’s a shoot? You walk down a street, or beach, or whatever and press a button.
You can make Staten Island as bare and powerful as Osinski did. Anyone with a camera–phone, Sony, Leica, Fisher-Price–who takes pictures of Staten Island, document-style.has a unique and rare talent: loving Staten Island.
Photo: Christine Osinski –Staten Island series
Regarding photography, compelling subject has always been confused with artistic talent. Since 2005, anybody interested in taking pictures can produce any of these: https://www.fstopmagazine.com/featured.html
If Diane Arbus had shot #nofilter #mountain pictures, her camera skill wouldn’t have caught the interest of those who respond to mountain pics by falling asleep.
She’s recognized and appreciated for who and what she chose to photograph. The subject.
The document photographer is presenter of a theme. Is there such a thing as a “good eye” anymore? Yes, but it isn’t required. That’s what photoshop is for.
(Black and white used to be a requirement for superior photography. Imagine promoting the idea that black and white is more than two color choices. RGB is a revolution Carveth is so very happy to endorse.)
Gorgeous digital photography by photographer Mark Yankus:
The Baby Did It Production, 2018
Photo credit, rb