On one of the photo blogs they have been posting on ‘the scandal’ about Steve McCurry’s Photoshopped images. What they presented in the witch-hunt are not out of line with what I consider as honest post-processed images for travelogue photography.
Still, some people seem to think that the finished images we present are exactly as they are shot in camera. Well, they are not. Even in the old wet darkroom days a lot of work usually went into the final image with dodging, burning and cropping. Taste may evolve over time, we develop new skills or we may wish to try something new with an old image.
At the time I am writing this, that blog said McCurry did not respond in satisfactory detail to the accusations and removed the photos in question from the internet once they were singled out. Hiding behavior is a signpost of dis-ease and is very troubling. I am upfront with ALL of my photos and stand behind them…I got nothing to hide.
I shot The Sunlit Slipper in the 1970’s when I was 19. My vintage darkroom print is on the left. When I was 60 I was now into digital processing and inkjet printing and was able to improve on it. My inkjet print is on the right, so, my evolution, education and skill level improved over the decades.
With my infrared flash photography there is always extensive post-processing that goes into the final image. I don’t care who is behind the camera – the unprocessed infrared flash image is usually absolute crap right our of the camera.
Only after extensive post processing can most infrared flash images be perfected.
Punk rock duo outside of club – Las Vegas (Candid)
From The Americans…60 years after Frank artists’ book by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.
The anal, camera fondlers say to ‘get it right’ in-camera. Well, that is why they are camera fondlers, they have no idea what it takes to bring home great, candid, on-the- fly images. If they knew any better they would know you can’t always get it right when shooting fast candid work.
I shot next photo unframed, with my hands over my head, with people in front of me. Get it right in-camera? Only in your fantasy world camera fondlers.
Unless we are talking about crime scene photos, minor cleanups that do not make a material change in the honesty of the photo just don’t matter…even if it is documentary photography. That is my opinion anyway. If it is a crime scene photo, than leave it 100%.
Here is the Hierarchy of Documentary Photography, which I have developed.
1. Candid events unfolding as they happen.
This is the most desirable of the hierarchy. It takes special talent to take photos candid. Candid street photography is what separates the men from the boys. In the infrared shot above I didn’t ask them to pose for me – I got the shot candid and as a one shot wonder.
2. If it cannot be perfected or obtained as a candid, then the photo must be posed.
If I did resort to asking them for the shot, would it be any less real or honest? Well, maybe not as real as an ‘off the cuff, natural moment,’ but it would still be real and factual. What about if they asked me for a couple of bucks to let me shoot them? Any less honest? No…I just had to pay an access fee.
3. If it cannot be perfected or obtained as a posed photo, then it must be staged with the proviso it is a recreation of past events, preferably with the actual persons reenacting the events.
If I missed the shot and a week later I saw a punk rock couple on the street and posed them outside the club…that is staging. Still factual, well at least kinda.
4. Figments of the imagination. Varies in documentary value. Can be based on pure speculation or a recount of events.
How would an anal commercial, studio photog shoot the punk rockers?
They would hire models and have a crew to light it, with an assistant holding a tethered laptop, hair and make-up artists, prop manager, location release, art director. In short, a bullshit shot. That is all studio photogs know for the most part. Still if the bullshit shot was based on what was historically correct and the bullshit shot was all that remained, it would have documentary value of sorts.
BTW, a street photog shoots the same thing in 1/250th of a second. By the time a studio photog takes off their lens cap and farts, the street photog has shot the photo and is on their way.
1940 press photo
Even before Photoshop, news photos have had a long history of being doctored.
Other times we may get an image that prints well and does not need much tweaking. Over 45 years this image has stayed pretty consistent whether it be vintage 1970’s silver gelatin left or modern inkjet print right.
There are critics are all around us trying to tear down our work. Unless they are paying us for a job, ignore em. I always tell people…If you don’t like my photos – go shoot your own goddamn photos.
From Girls of the Beat Generation artists’ book
A forthcoming 6 volume, limited edition series by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.