Saturday, September 5, 2020

Is photography cheating?

I am terribly fond of the question "Is photography cheating?" 

But what is my answer?

In one of the top ten all time romantic comedies, Long Shot, Charlize Theron asks Seth Rogan if he wants the job of punching up her speeches to make them funnier.

"Yes, no, I don't know?" He answers. "Can I think about it?"

Yeah, that's my answer.

But I love the question!

I take hundreds of pictures during the week. When the weather is lovely like it has been this week I go out in my neighborhood in the morning for an hour long picture taking safari. And then at work, in the late afternoon, I go to the swamp and the prairie behind my library for a half hour more. Through the weekend I do my more and more involved editing and post processing of all those pictures. Making a blogpost of and around some of my pictures can happen at any time.

And yet to my surprise I remain uninvested.

There are tons of better photographers than me. A few are famous, some are professionals, but by far most are neither. I'm happy to have them there. I won't be challenging them. I just take pictures.

Did you know that Vermeer, one of the most revered painters of all time, used a kind of a camera, a camera obscura, to more or less trace his masterpieces?

It's true!

Was it cheating?


Does it matter?

I'm pretty sure no.

Is it hard to take a good picture?

Yes, no, maybe? But it is definitely easier than painting a good painting.

Are Cindy Sherman's photographs art?

Of course! 

Is she cheating.

I don't know. I guess? Maybe art is full of cheating? But man, the art where you point a device at something and it makes an image magically, well, that might have a bit more cheating than most of the other ones. 

Maybe cheating is the wrong word?

In soccer there is a term for someone who doesn't care which team wins: A neutral. The soccer game in question might not involve a team one follows, or one might just like to watch good soccer, but a neutral is not emotionally invested in the outcome. They just are interested. 

I'm a neutral here.

And when I'm taking a picture with a modestly fancy camera of some amazing bird, or butterfly, or flower, and it comes out and it gets to be like I took a really good picture even though its mostly just that the bird or butterfly of flower is insanely beautiful, okay. But it might be cheating. And when I make the colors stronger with a few computer clicks, or even different than they really are, maybe that's a bit of cheating too? I think about it a lot when I'm doing it.

Yes, no, maybe.

But the best part is that, as a neutral, I like all the answers.

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