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Thread: The Kitsch Factor in Photoshopped Photos

  1. #1

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    The Kitsch Factor in Photoshopped Photos

    I'm really being repelled by over photo-shopped images with the colors pumped up to the comix level. The camera does not see as much as the eye can see, and such abstracting of elements points up the limitations of photography, and not the strengths. What usually happens is that the processor, in an attempt to be "creative", makes the photo look like every other photo that was so enhanced. I confess to adding a little contrast here, a little saturation there; but I'm mostly interested in getting the photo to look like what I saw that caught my eye. It's true that gimmicks were used in the darkroom as well, but never without calling attention to themselves. I suppose extreme photo-shopping is best for advertising, where one might be compelled to change the color of the subject's tie, etc.

    What Coleridge said of poetry seems to apply here: we are not in the business of creating "fancy", but are instead out to have our imagination penetrate what is there in front of us in a way that makes it fresh, as if seen for the first time. Other opinions are called for.

    Example: http://dgrin.smugmug.com/photos/380513149_TXMjT-L.jpg
    Last edited by lightdrunk; 1st May 2012 at 02:08 PM.

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    Re: The Kitsch Factor in Photoshopped Photos

    All I have to say is that its really an individuals preference and its really the difference between what might be termed 'art' and what might be termed 'photo' (its all subjective at the end of the day)

    My personal opinion and one that many may disagree with is that a 'photo' is as close to the original scene as can be achieved with little or no post processing (maybe a crop, white balance, contrast tweak etc..) whereas it moves into art if there is heavy post processing, the use of filters to blur water etc.

    I think the main thing is that the final image is pleasing to the person that took that image and although it is very nice to have others appreciate your work it doesn't really matter because as we all know from other posts on here, show a 100 people a single image and ask for their opinions and you'll just as likely get a 100 different answers.

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    Re: The Kitsch Factor in Photoshopped Photos

    I guess I'm coming from the position of somebody who likes photography as something that finds the same thing a good poem finds in a moment or a scene. For example, I prefer William Eggleston to any number of technically slick photographers who exploit the technical apparatus while seeing their subject as only a surface, e.g.; turning women in to Barbies.

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    Re: The Kitsch Factor in Photoshopped Photos

    If we all found the same thing visually appealing then there may be only one genre of any art form. Boring. I think much of the variety we are seeing in the photography world is due in most part because of the explosion of people taking photos and how easy the manipulation it is to do. The results of 30 seconds in post processing software would not be attempted by many people if those results took 30 minutes in a darkroom or the computer. The digital world has created an overabundance of amateur photographers. They are growing up in the digital world. They are experimenting, playing, exploring. We even have some who in the name of art produce photos whereby the camera is moved on purpose during the shot. Some like the results while some of us just class them as blurry shots and throw them away. We all go through stages of our photography life. For every over-saturated piece of "art" you can find I can show you an equally bad attempt at black and white whose poster thinks is worthy of consideration. And that sin has been around for a longer time.

    The people creating these photos are having fun pushing the boundaries and maybe they will be learning something. Do I like them? No. But not any less than over-done HDR, milk-white water, cats, babies, etc. Take a look, perhaps see something you can learn from, or not, and move on.
    Last edited by Andrew1; 1st May 2012 at 09:45 PM.

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    Re: The Kitsch Factor in Photoshopped Photos

    My personal preference happens to be the same as yours. However, there is no one right way to do photography (or poetry, for that matter). And it is certainly not the case that all of the masters tried only to replicate the original scene. Compare Edward Weston's early work to his later work. And if someone decides that an image is more striking in black and white, is that bad because it is not how she or he saw it?

    For better and for worse, digital photography has made it far easier to modify images. As someone who started out doing my own darkroom work, I appreciate this. I can make modifications more easily, and I can make modifications (e.g., focus stacking) that would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, in the film era. The downside is that this leads some people to make extreme alterations. I happen not to like those. But why should the people who do this care what I like? If they enjoy what they produce, more power to them.

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    Re: The Kitsch Factor in Photoshopped Photos

    Aside from creating art where there are virtually no rules for what the image should look like, I agree that post processing, like any tool; can be miss-used if the goal is to reproduce what we see with our eyes.

    However, is a SOOC image what we really see? Imagine what it would be like if we had to view the world the way our camera does with one focal point, one depth of field, one exposure and one shutter speed per view.

    We would need to manually set our eyes’ focus, exposure, and shutter speed for every item we looked at in a scene. It would be like having to take hundreds of pictures of everything we pointed our eyes at and examine them all before we could ‘see’ what our brain processes for us every time we glance about our environment.

    For me, post processing an image provides the ability to obtain but a fraction more of the real view that our brain does automatically every time we open our eyes.

    Some people see the world more colorful or monochrome than others and what may be realistic to one may not be realistic to another. However, when an image crosses my personal boundary of what I view as realistic, for me it becomes art. It doesn’t make it ‘wrong’ for everyone else just because I may not appreciate that particular piece of art.

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    Re: The Kitsch Factor in Photoshopped Photos

    My problem is not people's creativity: it's their sameness. To me, punched up colors of this sunset or that seascape remind me of something anybody can do if they click the right menu choices, etc. And I became tired of "fluffy water" even in film shots. To me, the special creativity in a photo is in the seeing of the photographer, the choice of the moment and subject, etc. The processing, whether done in the dark room or the computer, is for getting the photo to resemble the shot. I've seen too many gimmicks on photoshop for me to entirely trust it. The camera sees 1/100th of what the eye can see and has yet to have the flexibility of the painter's palette. So, the camera, the digital or wet dark room are tools: the photo is according to the photographer's vision. For me, "pretty pictures" are not enough.

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    Re: The Kitsch Factor in Photoshopped Photos

    Quote Originally Posted by lightdrunk View Post
    And I became tired of "fluffy water" even in film shots.
    It is amazing to see how rapidly photographic stereotypes spread these days.. At the moment it is long exposures of moving water (along with limited d.o.f. "minatures"), last year it was greyscale images with one accent detail in livid color. Someone has an idea which is neat the first time, it is soon picked up and copied around the net, and when the digital photo magazines (as in more "digital" than "photo") start publishing their "tutorials", all hell breaks loose..

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    Re: The Kitsch Factor in Photoshopped Photos

    Lenlg, I absolutely agree. It becomes instantly generic. A lot of this stuff looks the bad paintings in cheap motels.

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    Re: The Kitsch Factor in Photoshopped Photos

    I heard a quote from a chap in an Adobe advert the other day - and I agree with him: "I am an artist. Sometimes people call me a photographer, but it's not true. I am an artist who uses photography as a medium for my work.

    Watch the video (highly recommended)

    http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop.html
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 1st May 2012 at 09:07 PM.

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    Re: The Kitsch Factor in Photoshopped Photos

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    I heard a quote from a chap in an Adobe advert the other day - and I agree with him: "I am an artist. Some people call me a photographer, but they are wrong. I am an artist - photography is just what I use to express that art" (or in words to that effect).
    And just to show that there never will be universal agreement on the subject, I just bought Don McCullin's 'Shaped by War'. I can't find the exact quote, but it is along the lines of, "I am NOT an artist. I am a photographer."

    Oh well!

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    Re: The Kitsch Factor in Photoshopped Photos

    Quote Originally Posted by lightdrunk View Post
    The camera sees 1/100th of what the eye can see
    I disagree. I think the camera can see beautiful detail that the eye cannot. They just work in different ways; one is "real time" and the other is "slice of life". One isn't better or worse than the other - they're just different.

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    Re: The Kitsch Factor in Photoshopped Photos

    I can see both sides of the coin here. Photoshop is a tool, nothing more, nothing less.
    When I go through my pictures, I separate them in 3 parts - keepers that go into ACR or Lightroom where I do the standard adjustments (WB, exposure, sharpening, etc.), the garbage, and then I keep a set just to play.
    These go through an bunch of hoops with filters, blending modes and anything I can think of, until I hit on something that keeps the picture itself recognizable, but is as far from "true to nature" as possible. Are they art? Some might say yes, others will s consider it kitsch.
    Regardless, for me it's a fun way to pass the time, now that I'm retired.
    Others may think differently, but I'm having my fun with it.

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    Re: The Kitsch Factor in Photoshopped Photos

    I agree that some processing strays into the velvet painting of large eyed puppies and children terrain. I usually adopt an "I don't know if it's art but I know what I like" attitude and ignore the more hideous stuff. Or at least hideous to me. I had an employee once who found on the roadside a large velvet painting of a tiger, we assume it had fallen off a truck while someone was moving. {It may have decided to commit suicide rather than continue to offend good taste.} I could barely contain my gag reflex, she was so chuffed it was like she had won the lottery. To each their own. If it brings someone joy then I must assume it is fulfilling a purpose. I try to look away quickly before I turn to stone with some processing of images.

    However: I was recently told, on another forum, that my pictures of old abandoned farm buildings as a genre are trite ****e and only really suitable for starting fires; at the best. So who am I to cast stones?

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    Re: The Kitsch Factor in Photoshopped Photos

    Do they still make paintings of Elvis (Or Jesus, or the Virgin Mary...) on Black Velvet?
    I thought these things faded out around the turn of the century!

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    Re: The Kitsch Factor in Photoshopped Photos

    Photography is a creative medium, some would argue an artistic medium, so one must be careful when deciding what is correct and what one believes to be wrong.

    While I have no issue with photographers who strive to represent something in front of their camera in as accurate a way as possible are they really being creative? To a degree yes, there are choices to be made in focal length, shooting position, the time of day a shot is to be took etc but why should the process stop there. If we agree that photography is an artistic medium then we should also agree that there should be no rules set in place to restrict creativity. In this we are no different to artists who throughout history have argued what is right and what is wrong to a degree where separate movements have sprung up around a particular style. Would we argue that the Pre Raphaelites who believed in the true imitation of nature were better artists than say the Impressionist who strove to represent the changing qualities of nature often depicting movement in there work? We could but as is the nature of a diverse population there would be many who would strongly disagree.

    Personally, though I may not like a particular style of photography, I enjoy exploring every possible way in which a photograph can be produced and shown. I have stood in front of a photograph and felt inspired, I have stood in front of a photograph and felt I didn't understand what the photographer was trying to say, I have stood in front of a photograph and thought it was a load of rubbish that I wouldn't let through my front door as I have stood in front of a photograph and wished I were able to capture an emotion and represent it on what is essentially just a flat bit of paper yet still allow the viewer to feel the moment of capture with their very soul.

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    Re: The Kitsch Factor in Photoshopped Photos

    I'd like to thank everyone for the stimulating responses to a thread I started which was, I admit, a bit of kvetching. I am a professional writer and am attempting to bring my photography up to the same level of accomplishment in order to combine to two mediums. My "world view" lately is that we have slid into a culture of intrusive kitsch due to the power of electronic media and that the state of our consciousness is unavoidably impacted. This is felt in the disintegrating structures of public education, our politics, etc. etc. I believe that all art, to quote Joyce Carol Oates, is an attempt to "rise out of parochial states of mind." I am a serious creative writer who has a stake in this; I hope that my photography will demonstrate this as well, although at this stage, admittedly, I have much to learn. I deeply appreciate being in the company of intelligent people here.

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    Re: The Kitsch Factor in Photoshopped Photos

    Quote Originally Posted by Kris V View Post
    Do they still make paintings of Elvis (Or Jesus, or the Virgin Mary...) on Black Velvet?
    I thought these things faded out around the turn of the century!
    Good art is timeless; unfortunately so is the converse.

    Maybe we should have a little competition in this vein; everyone should submit an image shot and processed to be their ultimate nightmare of their favorite genre. Mine might be an oversaturated, vilely done HDR of an old barn with an overly dramatic sky photoshopped in with the light on the clouds coming in from the opposite direction to the light on the buildings.

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    Re: The Kitsch Factor in Photoshopped Photos

    Quote Originally Posted by tbob View Post

    Maybe we should have a little competition in this vein; everyone should submit an image shot and processed to be their ultimate nightmare of their favorite genre. Mine might be an oversaturated, vilely done HDR of an old barn with an overly dramatic sky photoshopped in with the light on the clouds coming in from the opposite direction to the light on the buildings.
    Next months' themed challenge?????

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    Re: The Kitsch Factor in Photoshopped Photos

    Quote Originally Posted by Kris V View Post
    Next months' themed challenge?????
    Trevor just needs to win the current Themed Challenge so that he then earns the right to nominate this as the next-but-one challenge title!

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