Saturday, August 30, 2008

Post No. 38: There is a Battle Waging between Conservatives and Liberals in the World of Photography – Why?

By Guest Author Paul Charette

I was recently invited to serve as a Guest Author here after my photography-related blog was discovered by those at “The View from Outside My Tiny Window.” Because my blog revolves around photography, I thought that I would write something related. That being said, here we go!

Though the title could possibly imply it, this post has nothing to do with politics; instead, when I say conservative, I am referring to the so-called “purist” photographers, who shoot (that is, take pictures) film or digital photographs, and who then refuse to edit their photos in any way, with the mindset that it is wrong, or in some way cheating. On the other side of the spectrum, the liberal photographers are those (likely digital) who have no problem whatsoever with loading up their photos into a wide array of computer programs (though likely an Adobe product) and editing to their heart’s content.

Quite often, the conservative photographers will choose to scoff at an image that they believe has been edited to appear in its final form (even if it may not have been), perhaps thinking that the liberal photographer lacks the necessary skill to complete their vision in-camera. The liberal photographers may even scoff at the conservatives for what may be seen as a lack of vision or creativity. I ask, however, why are both sides scoffing at and looking down on each other?

Excluding photojournalistic photographers, whose duty it is to record things as they are, are we not just trying to create a form of art, something that appeals to the mind’s eye, for any number of reasons? Photography is about painting with light. We record light, and the absence of it. While manipulating it afterwards, with the help of a computer, may indeed alter the captured light, why does this result in resentment in some? The final product, generated by a liberal photographer, is just as much a piece of art or the capture of a special moment in time, as that of the conservative photographer.

Could the conservatives not learn from the liberals, and the liberals from the conservatives? We are not dealing in the political arena here, or any arena where there potentially might be adverse consequences as viewed by those standing on the outside looking in – the outcome of our work is an image that hangs on a wall, or appears in a magazine, on a website, or maybe only in a family photo album.

What could be underlying this rift between the conservatives and the liberals? Perhaps some conservatives are technology challenged, or simply resistant to change. Perhaps some liberals do not understand the methods, skills, and sense of history embodied in the conservatives, and feel threatened in some way.

Let’s all forget about how it was created or edited (or not); why not collaborate and learn from each other. Let’s just make some nice pictures.

While not a topic that is in the mainstream news, I was invited to write about anything I chose. Though I chose photography, the counter-productive and unnecessary squabbling that is happening here can also be seen in many other areas of life. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Paul Charette


  1. I came back here from Feb.2011 to find out about contributing and was as delighted to find this piece Paul as I was disappointed to find no comments thereafter. I have commented myself elsewhere on the sadness of the dispute between purists and 'editors'. The end product common to all forms of two-dimensional art is an image, but created for many different reasons and purposes.

    Perhaps the conflict arises because people think the term 'photography' should only apply to the silver process - negative and print developed by chemicals, and have rules about what alterations were allowed. Dodging OK, unsharp positive mask not OK, for instance. Let the purists invent what rules they like, and compete among themselves in applying them - this is EXACTLY how art evolves. Let them dislike my hobby of blurring the margins between realism and surrealism - I have been at this for 48 years in parallel with traditional commercial and technical photography. As ever, I will judge the purist on the image, and the effort put into achieving it.

    Are you still in practice Paul?

  2. CorfuBob:

    Thanks for having enough interest in our blog to visit one of the earlier posts, and resurrecting attention to Paul's very thoughtful post. We too were disappointed in the lack of comments; however, we've learned in this business that some of the better posts generate little in the way of response, and some of the poorer ones, ignite a stampede.

    As to his practice, we went to his blog, and the last entry was December 10 of last year. Hopefully he still is out there sharing. Thanks.


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