I have just completed a quick and pleasurable project. A client of mine had only a scan from an old film negative of this particular car, a Ferrari F40. The car is to be shown at a 'Concours d'Elegance' later in the year and a photograph of it was needed for the brochure. In order for it to be well presented the representation of people (tricky terminology - I don't want to mix mimesis and reality) in the scan needed to be removed. Once I had done this in Photoshop using layers, masking and the clone, pen and paintbrush tools, I worked a little on the colour balance, shadows and highlights, sharpness, and removed the black specs that were in the original. I believe the feel of the film quality has been retained in its slightly blurred graininess but has also been given a modern brightness and saturation with the retouching.
In my final exam at university I wrote an essay on 'Photography and Truth'. This small retouching project has reawakened my desire to revisit this subject in writing sometime. So much has already been written about photography and its relationship to truth, and vice versa, yet I do think it may be beneficial to write from the photographer's perspective and the everyday concerns of integrity, commerce and consequence in this moment. It is also a relationship that, although we could never fully define it, has distinctly developed with the arrival of digital technology and, more recently, the widespread consciousness of alteration in photographic imagery. It seems as if people immediately distrust an image now whereas with film photography the instinct was to trust it (in the sense of it being a valid representation of a certain scene that had taken place). I am regulalry asked, "Do you use Photoshop?" with the inference on fakery rather than as an extension of the darkroom techniques of old. The essential stirring in the mind that I had when removing the people (the image of, that is) from this photograph was "does it matter?" and in this case I don't think there are any important consequences (but who am I to tell?). It is a faithful rendition of the car and its surroundings and, although I am ostensibly presenting this situation as "real", the car, I am sure, would have been seen at some point without the people surrounding it. Would it matter if I were to alter it further, say by removing the spoiler and the Ferrari badges and changing its colour to lilac? In terms of world history and the well being of humanity, probably not, but in some small way it would be less truthful than the retouching that has taken place. I think that this idea of alteration is connected with the gravity of a situation depicted, whereby the documentary truth of the situation is of great importance, such as in war photography. I have essentially changed this photograph from a documentary image of a time and place (a competition day at a track) into something more akin to a product photograph to entice viewers to see something's aesthetic qualities (with a soupcon of documentary i.e. the placement of the object within a specific environment). I haven't even mentioned the copyright consequences of such an alteration of another's photograph but I am suppressing such troubling thoughts in this instance (for purposes of cash needed and avoidance of problematic situations in the here and now).
I shall leave these musings here for now and hope that something more developed and competent arrives in my mind that I can work into an interesting written work.