Sunday, 26 June 2022

Sometimes I adjust or alter images

I try to keep images unchanged and in any case with the graphical manipulation software I very rarely change brightness or contrast. What I need to do especially for my type-2 paramontages is crop images. Cropping is still problematic and I try to keep it to a minimum but the demands of this type of work mean that some removal is necessary to make the photo fit in the assemblage.

The idea of honesty is central to this discussion. As a gallerist told me once when I was discussing a set of two small gouache paintings that I’d bought from him, “Art is editing.” How much editing you do gets to the core of the photography project.

I remember David Bailey talking about Surrealist precepts informing his work, the juxtaposition of elements helping to create surprises and therefore helping in the task of making meaning. Something that is surprising will, of course, impact the viewer in a different way from something that is expected. If you turn the sun into an eye you have made poetry because you’re asking questions that get to the core of what it means to be human, though when a person is walking down the street very likely they’re more intent on remembering which shop it was they intended to enter (yes, they need to buy a bottle of milk) than in contemplating the nature of the universe.

A surreal contrast between disparate elements can create poetry, so it’s these forces that are under discussion in this blogpost. I want to be authentic so as far as possible I avoid too great a use of software tools to change images. 

This raw tendency is central to what I want to be as an artist. About five years ago I spent a good deal of time visiting the Sydney City archives to consult records about office buildings in the central business district. Brutalism was a force here in the 70s and 80s until architects abandoned it and replaced it with postmodernism. But Brutalism is about raw materials, showing the method of construction in the finished edifice, revealing the how as well as the what. I love Brutalist buildings but sadly they’re being torn down one by one as the structure after that long is worth nothing and we don’t tax carbon. 

The land is worth a fortune so we easily decide to remove an entire building and replace it with something better. It happens all the time. I was however blown away by the magnificence of 50 Bridge Street, which is new, and which replaced a Brutalist office building. The old one was square and imposing and the new one twists like a snake (and is equally as imposing). I get inspired by skyscrapers and when I went to Vivid in May I was entertained by lights playing on their sides like magic lanterns seem by thousands of people, their mobile phones held above their heads.

They captured the sights in silicon memory. I try to distort what is before me before I cause it to be captured, but I do this distortion at the site of capture, en plein air (as it were) and not back at home on my computer. I have a technique that I use to do this and if I want a fuzzy image I just go to the folder containing the original images and select one but cropping remains a bugbear and I fight with myself every time I make a decision to remove part of a photo before fitting it into the assemblage. 

With the type-1 paramontages the use of filters for overlaid images is imperative so I don’t worry at all about doing this and recently I’ve experimented with adding filters to text so that when it sits on the images it is dappled or else it changes colour compared to the selected text colour. Changing the filter changes the text colour and gives it variation but doing these things isn’t (in my estimation) dishonest in the same way that cropping is deceptive.

With the type-1 paramontages for the most part I don’t crop images. Juxtaposition of elements might let me see the figure of a person sit squarely inside the face of a person in another image – this not done deliberately but just happening by chance. 



Basia Sokolowska said...

Do not fear cropping as it is and has always been and will be at the heart of photography. Framing a rectangle which you include in a photo by pressing the shutter means cropping the rest of the visual field out. Every photograph is a selected, that is cropped section of the image of the world. Cropped in space and time. From its beginnings, photography was confined to cropping reality. As for the full frame photography, praised by some documentary photographers, it all started with Cartier-Bresson and his lack of interest (and skills) in darkroom processing, where 99.9 percent of photographic images get cropped. Cropping is a great and refined skill, and there is no reason to avoid it if it makes the photograph better. I don't think cropping takes authenticity away from the image. What is an authentic image anyway? For me the intention of the artist makes a work of art authentic, not the tools he or she uses to make it. Here I am for complete freedom.

As for images made up by many photographs like your paramontage I would think of them as a whole, like a film, made of many scenes. The photographs included, just like scenes in a movie are parts of a larger composition, they are no longer individual entities looked at in isolation. They must work together and if it means cropping some, then be it. I think cropping in this case is almost essential, like in a movie where editing can make or break a film.

Matthew da Silva said...

Yes I take yr point, and have been gradually coming round to altering images when the need arises, for example to make sure the text can be read sometimes I need to darken an image or add shadows with a brush tool.