Week 10, Wednesday
Laterna magica was a crude early type of image projector developed in the 17th century, which used a concave mirror in back of a light source to project painted or photographic images to wall or other surfaces. They were used, for example by magicians and illusionists, to create bizarre and phantasmatic visions of ghosts, dreams and such, and it has been said that many of these images looked ‘real and scary’ for viewers of that time. Looking it from our time it sounds funny because our eyes are so trained to the phenomenon of photography and cinematography. Take one Hollywood blockbuster and you can expect to see anything really. So from this viewpoint it might be tempting to say that todays average individual is much more resistant to manipulated imagery in general than what we were couple of centuries ago – nobody beliefs in images of fairies anymore. But one could also turn this argument other way around. Because we live in world where there are manipulated images everywhere, average individual loses his touch to reality. Much have been said, for example, about how young boys and girls absorb unrealistic ideas of human body because of advertisement. It’s easy to expand this example and say that imagery created by advertisement also affects to our perception and worldview in general and because of manipulated imagery there are thousands of things which we never see as they really are (a sort of false consciousness theory).
I don’t know about you, but every time I edit my photographs in computer software (todays laterna magica really), I’m facing a question of how much I should bend reality in favor of something else (usually visual aesthetics). I feel if I bend it enough I will eventually break the photograph because it becomes something that doesn’t exist. For example, drifting away from reality just for sake of ‘looking more interesting’ is the main reason I don’t like todays HDR-images. Tone contrasted look doesn’t usually add anything to picture and once you recognize it you can be sure that original situation didn’t look anything like it. Is ‘a software effect’ worth a look? Personally to me the answer is no (thought there are exceptions too). Because of this I tend to appreciate photographs that look natural. But there is still a vast gray area where one can edit photographs and because it isn’t recognized also get away with it. In this age everyone doing photography has to find their own answer to how much they want to use that ‘laterna magica’ (software editing). And while this problem represents an old philosophical problem regarding photography and truth, I also feel it is still relevant question which can guide ones understanding of photography. How one answers to it, should show in more meaningful ways than just existence or absence of software effects. What kind of truth do you aim for with your photography?