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Thread: When you move things

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Mar 2001
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    When you move things

    When is it consider unwelcome to arrange things that you are photographing? If y ou are a journalist photographer, it would probably be considered a sin to do so . If you are shooting documentary, would you move things? If it's art photogaphy , where's the line again. If you are shooting a landscape and some pesky branche s blocks your camera, would you shift them aside or chop them off? Would you rem ove a cigerette butt from an otherwise perfect close-up of some fallen leaves on the ground? Ansel Adams, if I remember reading somewhere, touched up to remove a sign board in one of his landscape prints (correct me if I'm wrong). He was cr iticized. Eugene Smith altered his photographs in the darkroom. In this beautifu l book, High Plains Farm, by Paula Chamlee, some of the interior shots, I believ e, are arranged in small ways. This book really reminds me of the great Morris W right, which I'm not sure if he arranged things. Walker Evans probably don't. I guess my question is is this an ethical, aesthetical or a philosophical issue. D oes it change the way viewers look at your work?

  2. #2

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    When you move things

    Does it change the way viewers look at your work?

    Wrong. Should read: Does it change the way viewers perceive the subject matters?

    Thanks.

  3. #3

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    When you move things

    I am amazed that you even ask such a question. Unless, of course you are joking (not out of the question, I suppose) Unless you're a news photographer, why in the world would your choice of subject arrangement even come into question? We are talking about photography here, not "20 minutes", for cryin' out loud! There is no ethical mandate that what we shoot, must be exactly as we found it without alteration! Do you use filters? Considering some of the questions you have posted here, may I suggest a short nap, and a "time-out".

  4. #4

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    When you move things

    Geez... that sounded terrible! What I meant to say, Aaron, is don't worry so much about the ethical, phylisophical (sp) question! There really are not many.

  5. #5

    When you move things

    IMHO, photography can be aimed at two fairly different objectives : visual testimony or creativity (or both together). If the objective of the photography is the first ("I was there and my pic is here to show what happened or how it looks" for informative purposes), I would believe that moving things can be tantamount to misrepresentation in extreme cases. Whether this is criticizable or not depends on the real objective of the information one wants to convey, and how much the viewer wants, needs or will rely on the image for making up his mind. For example, if I shoot a nice hotel within its landscape for a Tour Operator brochure, is it really unethical and criticizable that I clean up the place and get rid of cigarette butts in the foreground before ? But in the same example if I get rid of an ugly building right behing the hotel in Photoshop, then I guess I'm entering into the world of misrepresentation.

    On the contrary, when the only purpose of my photography is creativity, I don't see the reason why the limit of my arranging things, whether in the field or with the computer, would not be my imagination.

    The only difficult issue seems to me where one combines creativity and information. In such a case, one needs to be very careful in altering the reality.

    I don't understand why AA was criticized for removing a sign board in a landscape. As far as I'm aware, Adams was never trying to "inform" about the real world, his camera was never intended to be a "medical" scanner. I think that his concept of previzualisation as such shows that his approach was everything but informative.

  6. #6

    When you move things

    Aaron, Don't move anything, In Vermont, If you cut a branch or tree, you are liable for it, the home/land owner will seek damages, The Railroad went after a photographer that cut down a tree on there property.

  7. #7
    Robert A. Zeichner's Avatar
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    When you move things

    I often carry a spool of cord that I use to tie off branches that are hanging in my field of view. This way, I don't destroy the landscape I'm trying to photograph while at the same time making it possible to get the view I desire. I've been known to "dust over" foot prints with some fallen brush when these would be a distraction. It doesn't hurt anything and it makes (in my mind) a better photograph.

  8. #8

    When you move things

    There is nothing wrong with moving anything if in your opinion it will make the picture better. In 1967 I moved a couple of rocks in one picture and in 1975 moved a tree branch. Since then, I haven't had to do it, although I would if I needed to. For the photographs that Paula made in High Plains Farm, she did not move anything, ever, except in the one photograph of all the small photographs. There she took them out of a drawer and basically threw them on a table. Ther would have been nothing wrong with her moving anything, but she felt there was an integrity to photographing everything exactly the way it was.

    The few times I have tried to move something I've always messed it up. Seems my creativity comes from a recognition of things, not an arrangement of them. If I see something I want to photograph, I have that reaction because I have seen it exactly the way it is. I suspect it was the same for Paula and her work on High Plains Farm.

    I once heard of a photographer (don't remember who) who would find small objects he wanted to photograph and would want to move them. He found, however, that he could not place them in a way that pleased him so he would pick up the objects, shut his eyes, spin around three times and throw it. Then he would go look for it. He said they always landed better than he could have placed them. (True story.)

    (His name is Wright Morris, not Morris Wright.)

  9. #9

    Join Date
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    When you move things

    I speak from a commercial background where one is expected to provide as perfect an image as possible. Therefore, I say, whatever you can do to improve your image--do it! The end result is all that matters.

    I'm not suggesting you destroy private property--don't chop down the farmer's tree because it interfers with your landscape (unless you *really* need to, in which case you convince him of your need and pay him). But fixing things up--policing cigarette butts, paper scraps, bottles, smoothing out footprints, removing--or adding--leaves, and so on will only make your image better. That is your primary responsibility to yourself. Never fall prey to the fools who claim it isn't real because you improved the scene. In the end, all that matters is the image on the wall. And for yourself, in a month or year or ten, you won't have to look at the image and say, "I really like this image ... I just wish I had removed that beer can."

  10. #10

    When you move things

    I have heard that WeeGee the newspaper photographer who made front page tabloid photos of dead gangsters on the sidewalk was always sure to arrange the victims hat so that it appeared casually tossed off on the sidewalk to edit/increase the shock value of the photo.

    I have also known in my personal experience a journalist/tabloid photographer who carried empty beer cans in his kit to place in car wrecks to punch up the tragic impact of death scene photos just in case there weren't any actual signs of inebriation at the scene.

    And all that was way before PhotoShop. :-} SKG

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