Wednesday, June 24, 2015

LuLa. Again.

Look at this mess: The Very Old Debate Of Image Manipulation. Because I am kind of a dick, I'm going to spend a little time smashing this guy's toys. LuLa seems to be willing to print any sort of thoughtless garbage from anyone who makes crummy overprocessed 500px-ready landscapes, and mentions ETTR in a positive way.

Taking it from the top.

We begin with the suggestion, weirdly enough, that the Very Old Debate is somehow reaching a new high, which is utter nonsense. If anything, people care less about it than ever before. Sure, there is the occasional teapot-tempest about a manipulated competition or award winner, but nobody actually cares except the prize committee and the petapixel crowd. The western world, at least, assumes that every picture they see is probably photoshopped, and they're pretty much OK with that. The debate has nothing like the intensity it had in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Then we move on to a bizarre and completely made-up dichotomy: Image Manipulation versus Manipulating Reality. The author raises a bunch of questions, and asks if one thing or another is Image Manipulation, or whether it's Manipulating Reality. But don't worry, he hasn't told us what the difference between these two manipulations is (although he claims they are Very Different?), and he won't be mentioning them again, so I guess we can just move on.

Just because I am especially cranky, I am going to quote something here:

As I have written in some newsletters and articles, for me photography is a two-step process: the capture and the post-processing and as I have previously indicated this has been done nearly since photography was born. Post-processing is not something that was invented with the digital sensor. And really, does it matter to use the creative tools available to you to make an image? These days instead of dark room manipulation or other types of manipulation, photographers (or digital artists) have other tools such as Photoshop.

I can only say: What the fuck is this? are you writing this for children? Did you really just write "for me, photography is exactly the way it is for everyone else"?

Next we move on to the deep question of whether digital manipulation is being dishonest. But first we'll let him introduce (and, thank god, actually define) a couple of terms: technical retouching, and creative retouching. But don't worry too much about these terms, he's not going to ever use them. In fact, he's not even going to address, or even mention, the issue of whether digital manipulation is dishonest. He's going to say "ETTR is great, and everyone does it" because this is a LuLa piece, and then he's going to tell us that he manipulates in whatever ways he likes. And then it's onward to the next section.

Let's see if the heading for this one has anything to do with the content. I can hardly wait.

Yes! Yes it does! The heading matches the content! Image manipulation in photojournalism and documentary work. The content does indeed address this. It says "I'm not going to talk about this."

Jesus Christ. What's next?

Phew. Finally a tiny section that's not stupid! He's rather see people manipulating in photoshop than smashing up coral reefs. I'm right there with you, Ignacio. Right on.

Next up, why is photography so often singled out for complaints about manipulation? He asks the question "... is it that photography is often much more manipulated than many other arts and ..." which is among the stupidest questions I have ever read.

Given that most of the other arts are entirely manipulation I am going to go with No on this one. Then we follow this up with 500 words of so of free content from some other guy, which is then dismissed with an airy "I do what I want". The author can't even be bothered to find and quote the stock answer to the question, which is that "photographs, by their very nature, are directly rooted in reality." He most certainly won't share the real answer which is "because lightweights like me won't stop pretending it's an issue so they can churn out stupid essays like this one."

Then we get a boring, muddled, history of photography in which Ignacio incorrectly equates photo manipulation with Pictorialism, and then incorrectly equates Pictorialism with composite printing. He manages to leave out Robinson, for some reason, and gives us 1800 or so words almost entirely lifted from wikipedia and a few other web sites, together with a bunch of pictures from other photographers to flesh out his piece.

And to wrap up he finishes with "Photo Manipulation has been around a long time and I feel everyone should do whatever they like."

All up, about half the words and pictures in this piece are simply copied from other sources.

If this were a paper submitted me, I would give it an F. The thesis appears to be "I manipulate pictures and I think that's OK" which isn't a thesis any more than "I am happy" is a thesis. It can be neither defended nor attacked. The fact that this thesis is buried under a heap of wikipedia text to make it look scholarly does not change the fact, and in fact makes it worse. If the author had simply stated his position, that he thinks manipulation is OK and he does a lot of it, that would be one thing. This pseudo-academic tripe is quite something else. It's lazy, it's disingenuous, and it's harmful. It dresses up a personal position in the clothing of scholarship, and pretends that it's something more than simply a personal opinion.

There is no synthesis. There are in fact no ideas. There's the lazy cut&paste of a teenager, and some personal opinions.

It is an affront to people who actually go out and read things and try to figure things out.


  1. Well said, indeed!

    Like the rest of your blog, incisive, impassioned, and often funny.
    This kind of writing makes me want to go and take more photographs.

    1. I'm not sure that if my writing encourages you to go do something else is much of a compliment to my words ;) But I am pleased to inspire you to photograph regardless!