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Keep the fertilizer to yourself.


So, my friend Mike made the comment (in response to my compliment) that anyone could have taken the photo he took, and what distinguishes him is his way of processing. This issue of processing is always a sticky one when it comes to be debated. I’ve talked about it before, and while my views have not changed they have matured a bit and become a bit less sharp (or more sharp, depending on your point of view 🙂 ).

Essentially, my view is that all that comes before you publish your photo (whether on the web or otherwise) is merely the fertilizer. This is not meant pejoratively, but merely as the raw material that leads to the (varying degrees of) beautiful end product. This does not, of course, apply without variation to all aspects of photography.Photojournalists have to present a less identifiably altered version of reality.

As always, if it is truth you want then maybe you should skip photography and try your hand at religion (or philosophy, if that’s what floats your boat).

I am not a subscriber to the belief which is proposed with varying degrees of fervor, that what comes out of the camera is somehow sacrosanct, representing a definitive proof of reality or your skill as a lensman etc. For me, as someone who only recently stopped feeling fraudulent calling myself an artist, the art that results is all that matters.

That is not to belittle those professional photographers and/or artists who can produce work, unaltered after close of shutter, with which they are happy. If the work you publish is unaltered from the camera, fabulous for you. But the point I’m making still applies.

Your process is your own, it works for you, it doesn’t concern me. If I like your photography, or ‘get’ your art, it is completely irrelevant to me how your art was accomplished.

All those who try to impose their views of what your art should be on you (including me) can go piss up a flagpole in the wind. Technical aspects of art always try to drown out the art when the majority of the practitioners are technocrats.

Anyway, the bottom line for me is with regard to my photography is aesthetic. My line for my own photography is drawn at changing the nature of the scene by adding or removing large elements. But if you do that too, or you want to go all Mapplethorpe Piss Christ on those pixels and call it your art (or truth, if you want), who are we to label right or wrong?

The photos that follow are some examples of how I process my photos. Call it photoshop if you want (although I use Lightroom for 99% of my work, venturing to photoshop, actually Perfect Layers, when I feel the need) but if you think I am wrong not to stick to the “before”, feel free to express your opinion . . . elsewhere 🙂 .






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Tell us what do you think.

  1. Michael C. Lam says: August 31, 2012

    This is probably one of the most candid posts you’ve ever done… and it speaks volumes. I agree with almost everything 🙂
    Keep it up, don’t hold back 🙂

  2. Rory says: October 14, 2012

    Wow! LOL, Nikhil: I was wondering if you were having a bad day when you wrote this. 8-P

    I think unaltered slides are important for what I do: landscape conservation photography. Or for archiving historical structures. Sometimes ‘art’ just gets in the way.

    I loved the blog post, btw. Cheers!


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