Pixelated Love

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Photographs lie. Perhaps lie is too strong a word. Let me restate my premise: photographs deceive. The viewer’s mind naturally assumes what she sees in the photograph is real. She will form an opinion based upon that assumed reality. Quite often her opinion, her perception, is wrong. She has been deceived.

I am not talking only about photos which have been extensively altered with Photoshop or other software. Nor am I talking about fashion photography with its use of tons of  light, makeup and hair stylists to turn an attractive woman into a siren of incomparable beauty. Regular photographs also lie – deceive – the viewer. The artist behind the camera chooses what to shoot and, more importantly, how to compose the image; she chooses,  or provides, the light, the point of view, and other elements of composition to create the artistic effect she desires.  A photograph by a good photographer is stunning; the immediate emotional impact on the viewer is strong.

With painting our eye instinctively knows the paint and canvass does not depict literal reality. The viewer’s eye is drawn more to the artist’s use of form and color and the texture of the painting than his subject. Even with the more realistic paintings created in past centuries our modern vision is not fooled. Photographs, however, remain for us depictions of the real. Even though we may intellectually know the image doesn’t reflect literal truth, we still react to the reality displayed much more than to how it that reality is distorted and displayed

The photographer may use the emotional power of photographic reality on the viewer to good effect. On the other hand, the visceral impact of the image may overwhelm the viewer.  How to balance the image to avoid having the perceived reality of the photo overwhelm its composition is a choice the artistic must make.

I am fooled by my own photographs. Even when I have extensively altered the image by adding or removing various elements or changing the image’s color, tone or composition I still am seduced into believing my deceitful image depicts something which actually existed.  Take this photo of a brick wall, for example:

The intensity of the various colors in the bricks is unreal, an effect created with Photoshop. I took the photo in April of 2006. I’ve looked at it hundreds of times since. Every time I do I viscerally believe the wall’s colors are real.

This image below of my nephew David’s bride Mary is another example. She’s a lovely young woman; but I used all of my dark Photoshop art to create an illusion:

Essentially this is a glamour photo. I spent considerable time altering elements of her face, removing every blemish, heightening her skin color and brightening her  eyes and intensifying their color. Altogether, I must have spent more than half an hour working to modify the original photo. Even though I know my detailed work recreated and enhanced Mary’s face, Every time I look at it, I fall hard for the stunningly beautiful woman depicted in the finished photograph. My brain knows my altered Mary is not real. My eye – and my heart – disagree.

Read all of VISIONS

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