When it comes to photography, I’m a big-tent person. In fact, I’m a big-tent guy about most things, but I’ll just stick to photography here. If there’s any kind of photosensitive material involved in the creation of an image, as far as I’m concerned, it’s photography.
That puts me at odds with the people who say that Kim Kauffman’s flatbed scanner based images aren’t photography . So be it.
I really disagree with those who say that any image that involves digital processing is not photography.
I think it’s fine to paint on photographs, and I call the result a photograph.
Not only do I think that photography covers an immensely broad field, I think that almost all photographers can learn from the work of those who tend their photographic garden in distant regions of the photographic universe. If you like Ansel Adams, you should take a look at Robert Adams. Robert Frank lovers, meet Joel-Peter Witkin. Interested in portraits? Take a look at Arnold Newman, Karsh, Robert Mapplethorpe, Richard Avedon, Lee Friedlander, and Annie Leibowitz.
Knowing my frame of mind, you can imagine how distressed I was to see the following statement from a respected DPR contributor:
Except that in the film era, people used the cameras that suited their needs and would work in their shooting environment, which cut 4×5 out of almost all pictures – quite literally. Guys would use change bags, take forever to set up for one shot, could only shoot stuff that did not move due to tiny apertures and punishing ISO levels. LF photography is the very essence of reductionism in photography, which is why all LF images look like they were shot in a vacuum sealed hermetic environment.
In case you think I might be quoting out of context, here’s a link to the whole post.
The dimensions of this point of view are staggering. A whole class of photographers, including, arguably, anyone who ever made a photograph before roll film cameras, are damned. Bodies of work that seem strikingly dissimilar to me:
- Ansel Adams
- Edward Weston
- Matthew Brady
- Carleton Watkins
- Sally Mann
- George Tice
- Clyde Butcher
- Richard Misrach
- Arthur Tress
- William Wegman
- Richard Avedon
- Joel Meyerowitz
are all thrown into the same bucket.
I challenged the poster on this point, but received no response.
At first, I couldn’t imagine how anybody can think that way. Then I considered the Sony FF E-mount forum where the post was made, and it began to make a kind of sense to me. Forums dedicated to a particular line of cameras tend to be populated by those who have a tribal allegiance to those cameras, and be visited by those who bear similar commitment to other lines. This can breed an environment of photographic xenophobia, where users of other cameras, or, in this case, of other formats, are cast into outer darkness.
That’s a shame, because you can’t learn anything from anyone who you’ve decided – simply by virtue of their chosen photographic tool — are misguided, and, as I said earlier, I think we photographers can all learn from each other.
The solution is not to throw out the camera-oriented forums. They have their place, and there is much that users of, say, alpha 7 cameras, can teach other users of that instrument that doesn’t apply to other equipment. But we need to be conscious that such forums can be breeding grounds for group-think that is dangerous to successful photography.