Too Much, Too Much, Retouch, Retouch.....
I popped into the AOP (Association of Photographers) the other day, which I do from time to time as I wanted to see the 'Awards' images. So much has changed from 'back in the day' when as a student the AOP awards night was a big big thing, where as now it just seems to come and go... I was a member for a number of years but left because I never won anything, of course this is only slightly true, it was more to do with the repetition and what seemed to be the same names and style of work year after year. My be I was just jealous like an out of work actor. But this post is not about that.
Today I want to write about retouching, or as people call it these days 'Clean Up' Don't worry I am not going to rant on this one, but simply tell you how I see it.
Of the retouching of an image has always been around, as has image manipulation. Back in the day (again) I would retouch actors black and white head shots using a scalpel to scratch off the emulsion surface
taking out various lines, spots, nose bogie's, that sort of thing. This would have been much easier today with a little help from mr. photo shop, but because it is so easy we are bombarded with images of perfection left, right, and perfectly in the center.
Can we really call it a photograph if there is no original part of the image left...?
I believe AOP to be a good gage as to what is going on in the commercial world of photography and I understand that if you are advertising something that may make millions of pounds then it has to look pretty much perfect. But regarding 'real life' and personal projects, why alter the reality if thats what you are trying to put across. All I could see in every award category were images so 'over done' they had lost any substance and feeling and just looked clinical. I could mention a fair few German photographers at this point from the Becker tradition, but that's something very different I wont get into at this point.
For me personally I hate the desaturated, high contrast images that are flavour of the month at the moment, a feeble attempt to replace content with post production technique.
When I was putting together my website and book dummy I had to digitise all my images. When I came to getting rid of the dust and matching the original prints there was a huge temptation to take out bits here and there and alter contrast, colour etc... Some would argue that I could improve the image somewhat, but then where do you stop. I want my images to look like they did on the day/night and I don't think endless tweaking would necessarily improve the shot.
I just think the most important thing in photography (for me at least) is the idea, not the after thought.....