Friday, May 27

Tell Me A Story • 4: Madonna

Race Against Racism runner(a)  • 4/30/17 • Lancaster, PA
Mysterious eyes. 

When color's surgically cut away, is there more or less identity... More or less story... More or fewer clues? I wonder: Do blind people understand others at a deeper or more shallow level? Is radio in anyway superior to video in communicating the depth of personalities? 

There's a resistance to digital post-processing, dismissing it as inauthentic. The word manipulation is the common verb that describes digital post work. I prefer augmentation, even revelation since manipulation sounds what? Dreary? Calculating? Callow? Shallow? Never mind that painters, for example, do nothing but manipulate... augment... reveal... the realities they imagine. Ditto poets, novelists, and composers. Can you imagine someone charging a symphonic composer of manipulation? Playwrights routinely manipulate the emotions of audiences, don't they? Is that a bad thing?

Yet somehow describing digital post processing as manipulation is dismissive, even insulting. But that's not my real point here. Those most likely to critique the idea of augmentative post processing argue that purity lies only in the image which comes out of the camera, right? Now I've written about pre-processing (lens choice, lighting constructs, filters, makeup, wardrobe, scenery, POV... and like that), and even what I guess you could call immediate processing involving the manipulation of panning, framing, and DOF. All of that manipulates what comes out of the camera. And that doesn't even begin to touch the things camera engineers have built in to manipulate sharpness, color and dynamic range, Etc. 

But none the less, purists who reject digital post processing as in-authentic have no memory of the wet darkroom where printmakers first selected among radically different developer chemistries/timings/heat, then chose between diffuser versus condenser enlargers, contrast/texture/pigment of papers/substrate, developer dynamics, hold-backs, burnings-in, solarizations, and on and on to create a one-of-a-kind final print, even in monotone. The opportunities to create one-off darkroom prints in color increased exponentially. The fact is that there never was a final print that was not processed heavily by at least the photographic artists and perhaps different darkroom technicians, and retouchers (both on the negatives and prints). 

Is all of this sounding defensive? Okay.... look at this:

Race Against Racism runner (b)  • 4/30/17 • Lancaster, PA
As I roamed the park next to my home here in Lancaster on the morning of this year's Race Against Racism run - I consciously looked for a series of faces to speak to you dramatically in monochrome.I could have set my Canon 7D to bleach away all color and make captures only in monochrome. Why do that? Why not allow all of the information possible to reveal narrative arcs? 

So first I processed this image above as a square (you'll note that this and the next images will all be square-cropped, since my Hasselblad days, that format's been a powerful challenge to me). And I processed it for the most haunting dynamic range and sculpting, adding a touch of glow to offset the overcast lighting of that morning. Then finally worked in monochrome to release the image at the start of this essay. 

But the geek-stuff all involves focusing powerful tools to carve out a narrative arc that allows the lady to tell her story. So, what is it? Once again, Tell Me A Story - THE story which you read from faces. I'm convinced that every street portrait needs to trigger at least  a short story - and perhaps a poem, novel, or epic. Hell, maybe even a sonata, if you won't accuse the composer of manipulating the notes - or the mysterious eyes :-)

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