Spring Field/Spring Rant

imageSpring Field, Lakeville, Connecticut © Steven Willard

This one of those deceptive images that argues against the saying that “photographs don’t lie”. In truth, the blossoms were there, as are the rolling hills in the distance. But what you can’t see is that there is a farmhouse and barns just out of frame to the left. Neither can you see that there is another farmhouse and barns in the fold of the land just beyond the edge of the flowers in the far distance, and just out of sight behind the rolling hills is the campus of The Hotchkiss School, one of Connecticut’s prestigious prep schools. What you see in the photograph is real, but it is an unapologetic distortion through careful elimination and manipulation long before it was converted to black and white.

Does any of this matter? Is the scene less real? I can take you to the very spot and place your tripod legs in virtually the same spots as mine were, and with a wide angle lens, this is what you’d see depending on the time of year.

Photography is not, and never has been, an “accurate representation of reality”. At the most, it can offer a believable image, though that depends on the viewer’s willingness to be deceived, and his sophistication, or lack thereof.

The photographer who eschews any of the photo-editing programs like Photoshop, or who still argues that film is the real photography on the grounds that his work is more pure is a sophist.  Did he select his viewpoint to hide an unsightly sign? Did he choose a lens for it’s ability to enhance near-far relationships, or to reach out to a subject he couldn’t approach? Did he crop the image when printing? Did he use exposure compensation to emphasize light or dark sections of the image? Did he select an f-stop for it’s shallow depth of field so that he could concentrate the viewer’s eye? Did he select a fast shutter speed to stop the action in a manner our eyes cannot? If he did any of these things he was editing his images. He was exercising a level of control over his medium, that’s all.

A photographer who uses the tools at his command is no different from a painter who mixes his paints to achieve the palette needed to render the painting he visualizes. A photographer can choose his tools like a painter can select his brushes, he doesn’t have to use the same one for everything. It isn’t the choice of paint or brush that determines if a painting is art or not, it’s the vision.

Pardon me for ranting, but every so often I have to get that off my chest. I get a little worked up when I run into a “True Believer”, who is convinced his is the only real way to practice photography. It bugs me the same way someone bugs me who is sure his is the only true religion. There, I’m done.


2 comments on “Spring Field/Spring Rant

  1. Theresa Navarre says:

    Love the vastness of this image. It is like looking out on an ocean. The clouds play off the puffs of texture in the field. Beautiful. Makes you wonder what the color image looks like.


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