I recently stumbled upon a video produced in time-lapse format demonstrating the tools and techniques used by a brilliant Photoshop artist. I say brilliant because he can essentially create an incredibly detailed and beautiful picture from scratch through Photoshop. I watched him compose the background from nothing, create a visual story, and infuse it with emotion. As he decides what is in in his picture, his composition is near perfect.
The fleeting and elusive “decisive moment” that photographers strive to capture is a non-issue for him. His angle, focus, and shutter don’t work together to create his image. Instead, like many other artists, he works from a blank canvas and can create whatever he wants with it.
As this artist worked, I felt amazed and threatened at the same time. Maybe this surge of worry is premature or unwarranted altogether, but I couldn’t help but wonder… Since the very first photograph, taken in approximately 1816, the capturing of still images has been something that fascinated humans across the planet. Now, with the accessibility of cameras, has the medium lost some of its allure? Does this artists enhanced drawing mark a resurgence of the more traditional art forms, albeit with a digital twist? This an ancient battle, from sculpture to tapestry, oil painting to engraving, Each new medium challenges the previous to reinvent itself to stay current. Photography challenged the traditional methods of painting and illustration. Now, it appears that the tables have turned. Traditional photography is facing challenges as technologically based computer art forms continue to develop.
Obviously, there are ethics and standards that journalists should adhere to as far as photo and video editing goes. In the past, some journalists have not followed the values and ethics that people trust, and when they are found out, their actions taint the entire profession. However, what if some unethical journalists “create” images through Photoshop but never get caught? The motivation for certain unethical edits is perhaps tied to the accessibility and user-friendliness of digital cameras. Photographers may feel more pressure than ever to capture that decisive moment. Furthermore, as images from artists and citizens photographers (who may not be familiar with the ethics and values of journalism) flood into the marketplace of ideas, the public then must sift through images and decide which are truth and which are fabrication.
I hope that the public will always favor and demand truth from journalism, even when a truthful image has a less than perfect composition. As much as I respect the talent that artists use to bring beauty and creativity to our lives, I hope that journalism and art never merge to an undecipherable point; because if that were to happen then truthfulness – journalism’s greatest asset – may be lost among a sea of beautiful creations.
Below is a collection of some of Henri Cartier Bresson’s photographs. Bresson is known as the “father of modern photojournalism.”