I’m a Manipulator. Get over it.

All good art manipulates us. It gets us out of our minds and brings us to a place of peace and wonder. We willingly let it manipulate us because we like how we feel when we appreciate a work of art. It doesn’t necessarily make us happy. It might make us feel sad, but we accept it because even in feeling sad, we appreciate the emotional opening it brings to us.

Whether I’m shooting film or digital, eventually I’m working with a digital image in Photoshop. I’ll do what I feel is necessary to that image to make it stronger and more able to do its work on you. I’ll raise or lower saturation, change color balance and even remove some elements like wires, houses, and fences if necessary.

I do all this in the service of trying to produce a work of art that entrances you. I want to produce a photograph that you want to look at again and again and you don’t get bored with.

If I’m successful, you don’t feel manipulated, you just enjoy looking at the photograph. If you look at an image of mine and all you can think of is that color looks false, or I’ve been there and it didn’t look like that, then I’ve failed.

So, open your mind, relax and be manipulated.

~ by danbaumbach on September 1, 2011.

10 Responses to “I’m a Manipulator. Get over it.”

  1. Hi Dan!
    I think when you are creating art, almost everything is allowed – for the sake of the art. But if you use your camera for documentary purposes, the image should be as real as possible.

  2. If you’re up front about it, I say anything goes. You say you’ve failed when I notice that a color looks false, do you have any other ways to measure when you’ve gone to far?

    • David,

      I work very hard not to go to far and as Lon says in his comment, “keep it as real as possible”. I find critiques from non-photographers to be most helpful because their critique will be whether the image looks right or not and not it’s technical faults or merits. I do take color cast critiques seriously, however. If enough people find fault with it, I might try to work on it some more or I might decide that I have failed and not show it anymore.

  3. Hi Dan,

    I wholeheartedly agree. Even still using film, I know I’ve come a long ways in my approach to processing and my goal is the same as yours. I want folks to view the work and not think or comment about manipulation. But I will work my image to make it the best that it can be – and try to keep it as real as possible. I guess that makes me a manipulator too. 😉 Lon

  4. Absolutely agree with you – the processing, digital or other wise, is an integral part of making the art. If it’s good art it’s ‘real’ enough for me.

  5. I think your thinking above is why your images are believable. It thus seems to work for you as a check. Some others who regularly go too far are operating right on the edge where, rather than keeping it as real as possible, their goal is to see how far they can push the color before it doesn’t look real. This approach results in some overdoing it in my observation.

  6. When I make a print, I make it the way I like it. Period. Picasso said: “Art is a lie that tells the truth.” Film and silicon chips are relatively color blind, and the human eye is neither consistent nor “accurate” in how it sees things. So what is real? The original scene is a “real” landscape. The print is a real print. It’s important not to confuse the two. This discussion eventually grounds out in personal tastes, which isn’t really debatable.

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