Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Beginning of the Road

This is day one. Sometime during the night, I awakened with thoughts about photography that needed airing. I thought perhaps others would care to hear those thoughts. One does this sharing these days in a Blog. Welcome.

Thoughts: We are one of the few animals that is a visual hunting species. Cheetahs, and some breeds of dogs and horse flies are sight hunters, but almost all other animals from single-celled organisms to the large mammals hunt with other senses--most notably the sense of smell. We humans also make initial choices about mates using primarily visual signals. This sense that is intimately connected with both eating and breeding is  our most trusted and important means of relating to the world.

Thinking of the importance of visual information to us as humans makes a technology that has the ability to engage our sense of sight a very powerful tool. We tend to believe what we see, whether the thing we see is in three or two dimensions. The magic and power of photography has always been that what it shows us we believe to be reality. Whether that belief is hardwired into our brains or whether it is a cultural artifact is a matter for debate.

In truth, photography has never been a true or accurate representation of reality--even before Adobe Photoshop made photos as malleable as putty. Early photos were, of course, without a third dimension, without colour, without true size, without any accompanying scent or sound, and were not taken with lenses that covered the whole 150 degree angle of view the human eye has. All photography is, of necessity, abstract, even colour photography shot with lenses that cover the same 150 degrees of angle as the human eye. And, yes, even the earliest photographers were busy retouching negatives and prints to idealize them--it just took more skill and effort then than it does now on Photoshop.
The question in my mind, as stated two paragraphs up, is whether humans will always see photos as real or will the digital age and Photoshop cause a cultural shift that permanently weakens what seems now an instinctive belief in the reality of what we photographers create in two dimensions.

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