Tim, Scott, Paul V., David, Paul R., and Darr thank you for your comments. I suppose what I am trying to do is put a stake through the heart of the saying, "All that matters is the final print." For me, more than that matters...perhaps because I come out of a documentary photography/geographic photography background. Considering manipulation, for me it's a matter of degree, be it in the darkroom or on the computer. It's just a lot easier to do on the computer, and I believe for some photographers, but I hope not for those of greater integrity, there is a tendency to depend more on the computer and less on photography skills. I suppose it would be entirely possible to create Moonrise on a computer by mixing bits of pre-existing photographs with "new" pixels using incredibly sophisticated Photoshop skills and techniques. I believe the person who could do that would be rightly highly considered in the field of computer art, but I don't think he would be considered a great photographer. Recall that Adams had a devil of a time making that photograph, and his success was largely due to his skill and experience in photography. And even then he had to use silver intensification to increase the contrast in the lower portion of the negative. That is manipulation, but I would accept that in the darkroom or on the computer. Somehow my knowing that he did that type of manipulation does not decrease my enjoyment of the photograph. I suppose we are talking degree, and that is subjective. I am aware that Strand and Smith did drastically retouch some of their photographs to improve the composition, clarity, etc., and that does decrease my enjoyment of those particular photographs. On another matter, now that the longevity issue has been solved, I have no problem with digital prints, per se. I do believe some visitors to my gallery do have concerns, however. One, of course, is the longevity issue. Another is the "It's just a machine print/Xerox copy" perception. Another is the issue we are talking about here: "Was the guy who made it really a good photographer or is it just all a bunch of manipulation to cover up sloppy work?" And finally, "If it's supposed to more or less represent reality, how do I know it really does?" (the manipulation issue again.) I know that many fine-art photographers exhibiting digital prints are sensitive to these issues, also. On websites and in artists' statements you commonly see disclaimers noting that digital manipulation is restricted to techniques equivalent to those normally used in the wet darkroom such as dodging and burning and contrast correction. I suppose one solution to ease the concerns of the gallery visitor would be to include such disclaimers on gallery labels. But that of course is not going to happen, nor necessarily should it. (It would perhaps be helpful for the visitor, though, if the disclaimer were in the artist's statement.) And yet some would say that the artist shouldn't have to discuss that kind of thing. All that matters is the final print. So we have come full circle. You see the dilemma some of us have when viewing digital photographs.
Wayne Lambert