Saturday, November 18, 2006

Photography - Are edited images okay?

Sharing a common interest in photography, a couple of weeks back during a discussion with Phantom, he said - "But that photo was edited and not original!". What he was referring to, is the idea, I myself adhered to, and considered appropriate - 'A picture should be only praised, in capacity of calling it a photograph, if it has not been modified in any form on a computer'. If we use a computer or any digital means for that sake, to edit a photograph, it is in a different league altogether, and should not be compared with photographs which have not been 'retouched'. Lets re-look this point of view.

Its been almost an year now, that I got my NikonFM10 and started to call myself an 'aspiring' photographer. I always used to admire photographs, but never had an exposure to the process of classical photography. Early this year, I did a course in B/W photography, where we developed our own negatives and made prints in a darkroom. This was the time my notion of photography changed. I realized that behind every excellent professional photograph before say 1990's, was an exorbitant amount of time spend in the darkroom. Taking pictures, compositioning, framing, timing, is only half the work, or maybe even less. The other half is what the darkroom does to the photograph. From developing to printing, there are innumerable ways in which an artist modifies what he has shot, to better its appeal. Improving brightness, contrast, suppressing the midtones, improving the highlights, cropping to a desired area, darkening some areas, washing out other, changing it hues (for color photographs), all is done inside a darkroom for each photograph separately. This is an 'integral' part of classical photography, and cannot be parted with. Infact, it is not even appropriate to call this 'improvement' as there no defined 'original shot' to improve upon. Moreover, with digital camera's you HAVE to edit, to produce a B/W photograph.

Now with computers, the same process can be done, at almost 1/1000th the time and effort. In darkroom, to test each incremental step, one needs to print the photograph, which takes atleast 4 mins for the chemicals to act upon it, but on screen its just 0.4 seconds. This is not something optional, but an essential step to produce the end result. So from an appreciation point of view, I now have completely changed my outlook, to one that focuses on the end result and not the process. The issue, then is, that on computer, a lot more can be done to alter the photograph that was not possibly classically. This is where another hitch lies. The feeling that doing image adjustments is one thing, but completely modifying the photograph is another. But, art has no definition per se, it could very well be termed as another art form, if not classical photography. The picture below was taken by Dubey saab

There are two problem if I accept everything, under the domain of photography. The first one is more practical, and the second one philosophical. Practically, what would you call a person who is apt at digitally modifying a photo. Is it justified to call him a good photographer? Or should there be another term for such a person. Personally I am confused on this, for this person does have the abilities of compositioning and a sense of art to produce good picture, but it is not sure if he has the human touch and a sense of perception, that a classical photographer has.
Philosophically, and this is personal philosophy, the sweetness of effort spent in a darkroom is lost, when the process is done digitally. In anycase, I have now developed more respect for digitally processed photos, any try to look it as art, instead of thinking about the classification problem. Here is one of my 'retouched' work.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


I have been brought up with an idea of fasting as an integral part of life. When I was young, I was motivated by my father to keep vows. Just for the sake of it. For example, I was in love with papads. I could have had a whole meal of papads itself, and usually I used to order for a papad even before I started my meal. So my dad gave me a challenge, to test and ask myself, "Can I live without papads for a specified period of time?". And so I stayed for weeks without it to take on this challenge. I really enjoyed the feeling of 'achievement' once the fast/vow/challenge was over, and used to resume to normal routine. For me fast is not something meant only for ascetics or the weight-troubled people. Also fast is not only related to food, but can touch various spheres of life. I believe its effects touch deep inside and the satisfaction it brings is unparalleled.

As youth took on its speed, I had forgotten this long lost joy. But, graduate life has given me an opportunity to slow down and live the life I really want to live(or atleast give an attempt). So, I planned another fasting. This time, Khatri Bhai was there to support me, not only motivating me to do it, but by being an 'integral' part of it, and phantom a 'official' part of it ;). The fasting was to stay on fruits and vegetables for seven days. No cereals and no dals. I almost believed to factuality that I cant live without rotis or rice without giving myself mental trouble, and this was to test myself of this limiting belief. Also, I was motivated in part by reading Gandhiji's autobiography, where he also experimented with food and in another part by my health condition.

To my surprise, it was an amazingly easy task to perform. I could not have imagined that I can stay easily without cereals and dals for a week. Infact, four days out of seven, I was living even without milk. And one of that day, was a pure juice day - no solid food, not even soup. To my good fortune, and what made the fast more exciting was that Bhavjit had his farewell party the very same day I was to stay only on juice. This was the only day I really felt week and need for food. My average diet during this period was, juice and munakka breakfast (sometimes sprouts), some fruit plus just boiled vegetable(usually carrots or cauliflower) for lunch and soup for dinner. I even abstained from any spices, living on just salt, pepper and lemon. I am happy that we were successful in the attempt and would do more such fasting in the coming years. Oh! and did I tell you that such fasting is also considered a cleansing process for the body in Ayurveda literature and even western medical science :)

My father also suggested me this book by Paul Bragg, which I have still not manage to procure. On the flip side, I was expecting a more pronounced effect of such a fasting on the body, with some spiritual side effects ;), but it seems that with pure satvik food its important to keep your mind at peace to reap the real benefits of such fasting, which was missing this time. I was as active as I am on any given day, and did not gave time to be with myself to have mental relaxation. Any suggestions for next fasting?

Thursday, November 02, 2006