Photoshop – what is ‘enough’? by Roger Taylor
Geoff’s comments (Aperture – December 2011) about Photoshop, the media, and the photographer’s responsibility to his subject are worthy of more than superficial consideration. Unfortunately he has fallen into the trap of using examples from the highly competitive world of commercial photo-journalism on the one hand and mixing them with a situation that we commoners might experience on the other. As we all know, they are worlds apart.
Geoff implies that the only use for Photoshop should be to correct any perceived defects in the original image. So my first questions are; who decides what defects are? Who decides what is enhancement? And the biggie, who decides what is acceptable in an increasingly cosmopolitan world?
Grazia is not a UK magazine. It is an Italian magazine with an English edition, a subtle but significant difference. The offending picture was not there as a true and correct record of the event. The image fooled no-one. As soon as it was published it was picked up as a fake. It was there to sell magazines – pure and simple, and boy, it sure did that. It is understandable that the Brits might get up tight about the PSing of their current idol, their fairytale princess. Of course somebody complained to the Press Complaints Commission. That’s what the PCC is for. The big story would have been if nobody had complained. However the Italian public were not in the least put out and saw it all as a storm in a tea cup.
So, more questions. Why do so many people still assume that what they see must be true? And (from a man’s point of view) what idiot believes what they see in a fashion magazine?
I have thought long and hard about Geoff’s suggestion that we take pictures of people in order that somebody, sometime, will get the warm fuzzies. As a general rule, I take photos of people in order to show as much as I am able of their character and possibly something of the environment that goes towards that character. If subjects hate seeing themselves in photos then that’s their problem. Their hatred will always show through and there is nothing any photographer can do about it. Personally, if anybody intimates to me in any manner at all that they do not want to be photographed then I immediately make it equally clear that I will respect their wishes. As for pimples, teeth whitening, eye sparkling and wrinkle softening, let’s not beat about the bush it – it’s dishonest in exactly the same way that the Grazia image was dishonest. You do it. I do it. Why not Grazia?
It is not a simple case of trying to put one over the subject. Is the subject trying to put one over you, the photographer? Or, what might be even worse, put one over the viewer with your collusion.
Of course we must never forget that one man’s line in the sand may be another man’s ripple on the beach. But we won’t know which it is until we wade in to see.