This photo is photoshopped!

In my free time, I try to get a look at as many photographs as possible. Sometimes online, sometimes in galleries. But just like with most pleasures, there is always some indignation involved. 

Mostly, I would describe me as being quiet calm, fair and just. I drink tea, I like cats just as much as dogs and I try to avoid little kids. But when somebody says :" I don't like this photograph. It's clearly photoshopped. I like it, when photos are natural ! Why do they always have to manipulate the photos?", that's the time of day, when I want to take my tripod and just hit things (don't worry, I don't actually do that...). 



Of course there are photographs that just don't speak to everybody (which is the politically correct term for "looks bad"), but let me explain my rage. For this we have to go back in time and have a look at the birth of photography. 

                       Latticed window at Lacock Abbey-William Fox Talbot (1800-1877)

                       Latticed window at Lacock Abbey-William Fox Talbot (1800-1877)

Because, we would quickly realize that those first photographs, due to limitation of technology and tools, are just abstract depictions of reality. In arguably the first ever photograph taken above, we can clearly see a window and a house - as well as a tree. But do those things look like that in real life - no. With time, photographs got better and better. More people got involved in it and found different applications for this medium. One started talking about mechanical objectivity and the implementation of this medium as a scientific tool. Prior to the invention of photography, if a scientist wanted to capture an observation his best choices of tools were a notebook, a pen and his own sketching skills. As you can imagine, quiet often scientists are lazy people, they make mistakes, they leave things out or they may just sketch as bad as I do. With the help of photography in theory, you can capture scenes and nature, without influencing the scene. 

But here lies the problem. The nature of photography simply does not allow you to do that. When we dealt with analog photography, it was very difficult to get two exact copies of an image. The development process and chemicals do not allow you to get exact copies and had a specific margin of error. Personally, this is a wonderful thing. This makes every photograph unique for me. Using different processes, films and developers also resulted in different prints and negatives. With digital photography, we can shoot in RAW. But what does it mean? Well it is the raw data, the camera captures in contrast to JPEG and other compressed formats, that throws stuff away. Shouldn't we be able to capture everything - untouched?  If you are familiar with digital sensors than you will know that this is definitely not the case. Just take the light sensitivity of the sensor as an example. Over the years, the sensitivity of the sensors got better and better. With cameras like the A7s we are able to literally see in the dark. Another example would be colour rendition. For many years Canon digital SLRs had problems with the spectrum red and magenta. Every couple of years manufactures bring out different sensors with different RAW formats that have to be interpreted by the computer - differently. Who says, that our sensors capture everything that is even out there? 

You see, just because the photo came straight out of the camera, doesn't mean it is better or more natural. Even if you don't retouch it, photographers can influence the scene very dramatically and change the context of meaning of a photograph prior of capturing it. 

In fact, I would even go this far and say, that there is no true objectivity. Even if you try to think from somebody else's perspective for example, it is still sandboxed in your own mind and thinking. Photography at first, is a medium for creating art. It does not capture reality, as there is no such thing as the one reality. Many great journalists and scientists try to use this medium though in other fashions and have succeeded in the past and present. But please, always question what you see. Even the greatest of us fail sometimes. And please - stop saying "This photo is photoshopped". Because every photo essentially is.