What is photography?

When a photograph is altered digitally, is it still a photograph? Purist photographers answer that question with a resounding "No!". Adding a moon to a landscape is strictly forbidden because it alters the reality of the image. Judges in photography competitions rail against altering color balance, ignoring the "rules of thirds", and submitting a photograph whose center of interest is not "tack-sharp" with a creamy bokeh. But is this a valid criticism?

The instant an image is captured, regardless of what processing is used - whether it is in the "wet" darkroom or on a computer, reality is changed simply by converting a three-dimensional scene into a two-dimensional representation of that scene. Creating a black and white photograph, no matter how faithful to the original scene, still alters the perception of reality.

Film photographers have long altered the reality of their images by their very choice of film, processing chemicasl and time, dodging and burning of the print, and combining negatives into a single print.

So is the capturing an image, whether on film or digitally, andaltering that image by analogue or digital mean,s really a photograph or would it be more appropriate to call the captured, altered image something else that would more precisely define its relationship to reality? There is a wod that has been used to define altered reality and that word is simulacrum. By definition, a simulacrum is a likeness or similarity. The word was first used in the English language to define a representation such as a statue or a painting. Later the word had acquired a secondary association that it did not have the qualities of the original. Fredric Jameson offered photorealism as an example of artistic simulacrum. Other examples include trompe-l'oeil, Disney parks, TV shows such as Fantsy Island, and movies like Blade Runmer.

Why even bother with this discussion? Photography is an art form. It is representational and subject to interpretation by the artist - the photographer. Discussions of what constitutes true photography are fruitless because in photography there is no true representation of the original scene, but rather a simulacrum of that scene,


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