May 22, 2021 ·

Ed Gordon

What do we seek as individuals and photographers? Are we satisfied with the dim light of unawareness and ignorance or are we open to the full brightness of understanding and authenticity?


Self-Portrait long exposure taken in-camera ~ A PHOTOGRAPH

Is it the process and the experience that nourishes you or are you all about the likes on the most fickle of masters, social media? 

For many of you dropping in a sky and adding items to glorify the image is just another part of your everyday workflow and you see this as artistic vision. Your approach is that there are no limits except your imagination and you may well ask what’s all the fuss about? The motivation behind this article is to provide accurate ways for us to describe our work that gives it integrity and authenticity. 

We enjoy it when our work is appreciated but how many of the billions of images posted online are really looked at and appreciated?

The images I make that bring me the most joy are often the least “liked” on social media. My joy comes from the experience of creating an image that is uniquely mine and is not just another clone of the myriad replications of Joel Tjintjelaar or Michael Kenna. I am constantly searching to make an image that is uniquely mine.

 “I still dream of the day when I take a photograph so beautiful, it can be called love” – Jan Saudek 

Wim Wenders is a great German filmmaker. He shot “The Salt of the Earth”, the story of Sebastiao Salgado. 

In an interview with the BBC, he lamented the current state of photography. He believes the ubiquity of cameras, their ease of use, and the sheer breadth of processing options reduce the creativity of the photographer. 

He suggests the “sameness” has devalued photography as a genre. In fact, I would go as far as to say that he identifies a lack of art in photography, so much so that it is not photography anymore. He sees it as something different, created with a camera, and wants a new word for it.

Wender’s words made me think. All the more so since we are in an era of endemic misinformation — and outright disinformation. So here I am asking more questions.

  • When is a photograph not a photograph?
  • When does photography become Digital Art? 
  • When is a photographer no longer a photographer but instead a Digital Artist?

Does it matter what we call our images? Yes, it does. The language we use shapes our relationships and words matter.

This gave me the idea to create new vocabulary and understandings for the medium we love and enjoy. 

Before I do that let me categorically state that this is not a diatribe against new methodologies and creativity in the medium of photography but instead a plea for honesty in how we represent our work. Maybe this new vocabulary will allow all of us to accurately do that.

NEW VOCABULARY

THE PURIST PHOTOGRAPHER
Uses analog film cameras. Develops and processes film in the traditional darkroom and prints all negatives in the analog darkroom using chemicals and traditional papers along with all possible techniques to achieve the desired transitions of light and tone. Let’s assume that this photographer then wants to publish their work on his/her website. The print is scanned and then posted to the website and social media for all to see. Progress has provided us with the internet so if this photographer wishes for their work to be seen then a digital element is unavoidable. Is this person no longer a purist? End Product ~ A photograph

Samples of images shot on film and developed in the traditional darkroom.


Family in India shot on Contax 645 using Ilford FP4, developed using Ilford ID11, printed on Forte Grade 3 , Selenium toned. Print scanned using a flatbed scanner.

Sikh guard at Temple in Chennai. Process same as previous Indian family image.

THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Someone just like me who has moved from using film to digital cameras and from the analog darkroom to the digital darkroom. The many thousands that began their journeys in photography in the digital era. 
Traditional photography. All images are captured in-camera, single shot, or multiple exposures. No image is materially altered by inclusions from other images or removal of material items. There are no dropped-in skies, Unicorns, Leparauchans, or strategically positioned Flamingos perched on trees rising from a silky lake. Vision is manifested by skillful editing of transitions of light and tone as well as selective sharpening and dust spot removal. End Product ~ A Photograph


Shipwreck outside Athens captured in-camera using Nikon D850 and Hoya R72 Infra-Red filter.

THE PHOTIMAGIST 
Lots of images are portrayed as photographs even though they are clearly “created” in the digital darkroom and are not a product of a single in-camera capture or double exposure. I think art is art and there are no rules, but composite photographs should be disclosed to the audience. Swapping skies or subject matter is deceptive and not true photography in my opinion. It is the deception that is wrong. Disclosure rights this wrong.
It should be acknowledged that images created using these methods of manipulation are only limited by the imagination of the artist and that this form of art and creation is truly wonderful and often magical. Where it falls down is when the artist depicts the final image as a photograph. It is at that point the work becomes a lie.
It is, for this reason, a new term is needed to describe work that has photography as its foundation but uses multiple images or parts of images to create the final image. 
End Product ~ An image made up of multiple images that MATERIALLY departs from the foundational capture. New vocabulary gives the work integrity by naming it as a PhoTimage.


PhotImage is provided by the creator, George Digalakis
https://www.facebook.com/GeorgeDigalakisPhotography

I believe that these terms offer clarity and integrity to all. 

  • PhoTImagery
  • PhoTImagist
  • PhoTImage

So there you have it. We have 3 new words to accurately and honestly describe ourselves in terms of our photography as well as honestly describing our work and its genesis. 

Much more can be said on this subject. For now, I think brevity offers the beginnings of arriving at clarity on how best to represent ourselves and our work with honesty and integrity. 

Your comments and feedback are most welcome. Just remember words matter.

Ed Gordon is the founder of www.explorelight.com and with his son Peter, European Professional Photographer of the Year 2013, they have provided amazing experiences and workshops through their many guided tours and workshops around the world.

For more information check out:

www.explorelightphotographyworkshops.com

Ed Gordon

May 2021

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Ed Gordon

It’s been more than 20 years now since I founded www.explorelight.com and gave up my day job to immerse myself fully in my photography. My work has been published in various magazines including Photo Art International and Outdoor Photographer. I have also featured in numerous radio and TV celebrations of the work created by myself and my son Peter, European Professional Photographer of the Year 2013. As I reflect on almost a lifetime of making images and teaching others to find their voice in photography I realize that unique self-expression and authenticity are the ultimate goals in this great medium. The changes that have taken place in these past 10 years motivate me to share my journey and in so doing provide insights so that others can learn to find their voice in photography.

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