Monday, April 2, 2012

on editing


the two comments i hear the most about my work are: my photos look unrealistic (too edited) and that they look like oil paintings.

this is not a coincidence. 

no, my photos do not look like snapshots straight from the camera. to me, that is unrealistic.
ever since the camera was invented, and an objective, nonliving, simple mechanism replaced the subjective, organic, complex mind of the artist as the lens we see the world through, people's idea of reality has completely morphed. we're too quick to believe that photos and videos represent the entire reality of a moment as it really was. cameras are unbiased, and so must be more true to reality than our memories or our perception, right?

i think, wrong.

i know it seems like an obvious distinction to make on the surface: photos are not equivalent to what they represent. anyone who has ever tried to take a picture of a sunset with underwhelming results knows this. but what is not obvious i think, is how deluded our faith in technology is. we naturally assume that, if only the camera was a little bit better, a little more advanced, a little more expensive, then surely it would reproduce the same emotionally-evoking likeness of the sunset.

this is the subconscious delusion we function on these days, in the era where our online lives eclipse our breathing, beating ones,where relationships are forged and dissolved over texting and skype, where we work on our online personas more than on our personal growth,  and where if a tree falls in a forest and no one was around to tweet about it, it didn't happen. technology is the new religion. we have absolute faith that it will resolve all our problems and side effects that come with real life. technology provides a cleaner-faster-better-cooler-prettier prosthesis to the real thing. you would be crazy not to upgrade.

don't get me wrong. i like technology. it really has made the world...well if not better, at least easier and faster for scores of people. it has its place, but that place is not everywhere. and certainly not as replacement to our own human perception of our lives.

no piece of nonliving technology, no matter how advanced, will ever be able to independently reproduce the image the camera behind your eyes captures. it is exactly the subjectivity that makes the moment real. i think we have wrongly defined our visual experience as only the sum of the "photons" that can be measured "scientifically". a photo is just a representation. a metaphor. and a crude one at that. and it has its uses. since it is stripped of a large portion of its information, it can be sent out to millions. and sadly, that's what counts today: how much you say and how many people hear you, not the quality of what you're saying.

before technology came around dictating what reality was, people had more faith in their own (and each others) world views.  when you look at oil paintings, they do not look "photo-realistic" not because the artists lacked the skill, but because that's not what they saw as reality.

how the camera sees is not how we see. we see so much more. let us not forget that.

oftentimes, the colors and light in my work are exaggerated. and this is why: i am only communicating the idea of the moment through one channel--the visual. but that is not the only channel we experience through, so to compensate for the lack of all the others, the visual must carry a heavier load, to aim at the original emotion. and even then, it will always always be only a representation. 

editing is my way of giving the critical, subjective components back to the piece, ones the camera has indiscriminately amputated. 
to me, the editing makes my photos more realistic. 

i hope my photos never start to look "photo-realistic".