I was watching a “rockumentory” about the Pogues song – “A Fairytale of New York” and I was struck by the amount of process that was required to “engineer” and produce this track. The final track was a product, two years in the making. A result of painstaking mixing, over dubbing and general editing to reach the final result and it struck me that this process has some parallels with the debate on whether processing in Photoshop is considered “cheating”.
With the latest version of Photoshop getting ever more powerful and allowing us to change skies, or add mist at the press of a button, the debate rages ever louder as to what constitutes “cheating” and what is staying “true to the image”.
I often like to think that I do very little processing in Photoshop, preferring to just restrict myself to using levels and curves and a little light “gardening” using the clone tool to clean up un-wanted distractions. However, when I look at my process a little deeper, I find I’m using tools such as “Content aware fill” and the “highlights” and “shadows” sliders are often my saviour, so maybe I’m processing my images a little more than I like to think.
Black & white darkroom images are often considered the “purest” form of photography by many, but if you look at how much work Ansel Adams did to the negative to produce his prints of “Moonrise over Hernandez”. Or the work of Herbert Ponting who was sandwiching “stock” skies using his glass negatives when he sailed to the Antarctic with Scott in the early 1900’s and you can see that the art of image manipulation is nothing new.
I remember Hugh Milsom being asked of one of his beautiful pastel images “was it as you saw it?” And his answer was “It was as I saw it”. So maybe the concept of “being true to the original scene” is just an abstract concept, who’s to say what actually was the true scene, surely its all a matter of vision and opinion and its down to the individual to decide how much processing to put into the final image.
Remember that the harp on “A Fairytale of New York” wasn’t actually on any of the original recording, it was added much later and in my opinion, its all the better for it.