To manipulate is to alter, influence, or control, a photograph can be used to mislead as well as inform and it is important to bear in mind manipulation is not exclusive to digital processing. Even before pressing the shutter a photographer can exert influence over how much of the truth is recorded and create a false reality. The choice of camera settings such as WB , aperture , shutter speed , filters , etc. are the photographer’s alone . Hence personal vision and artistic intent will influence how an image is planned and shot and as such may be considered a perhaps discreet form of directing its meaning. 

 Furthermore the choice of who or what to include in the frame can be used to alter reality and create a fake truth. In 1933 the Russian photographer Aleksandr Rodchenko undertook the brief of recording the building of the White sea (or Stalin) Canal. He generated approximately 3000 images, some  of which were published in a magazine designed  to display Soviet advancement , but “Rodchenko did not focus on the use of forced labour, or the deaths of thousands of workers at the site” pg. 242 Mary Warner MarienPhotography: A cultural History” 3rd Edition Laurence King Publishing ltd, London, 2010 . His images recorded  a distorted history  and must be considered  “as deceiving as reshaping pictures” pg.  518 Mary Warner MarienPhotography: A cultural History” 3rd Edition Laurence King Publishing ltd, London, 2010.

Prior to the digital age darkroom techniques were used to manipulate and create new realties. However these were specialised procedures: the darkroom was not something the general public would have access to or have the knowledge to be able to use the skills involved.   Along with the growth of digital technology has grown the ease and ability of vast numbers of artists to create new meanings in the digital darkroom.  Charlotte Cotton implies “in an era where we receive , take and disseminate as well as tag , browse and edit  photography imagery , we are all more invested , and more expert in the language of photography than ever before , and we have a greater appreciation for how photography can be a far from neutral or transparent vehicle for bridged and framed moments of real time. “ pg. 240  Charlotte Cotton “The Photograph as contemporary art” (new edition) Thames and Hudson, London, 2009.
This suggests we are less likely to be fooled by manipulated images which leads to the question to what extent does it matter ?

Personally what I feel matters is the aim and intended use of  an image.  When the truth is in question the balance between ethics and aesthetics needs to be carefully considered. Photojournalists and documentary photographers are purportedly recording the truth and as such to deliberately alter the meaning of this type image is inherently wrong. In contrast fashion and beauty magazines require images that sell and promote a certain lifestyle and usually feature airbrushed models , perfectly slim specimens with clear unblemished skin. However the image on the front cover promises something unattainable that has been “digitally constructed or manipulated” pg.199 Liz Wells “The Photography reader” Routlidge, Oxon, 2003. But would readers really prefer to see an uglier, fatter , spottier  (but perhaps more believable) model adorning the front page? I somehow doubt it but this type of manipulation has led to accusations of creating gross insecurities about body size and looks. But can it be considered ethically wrong to produce such images when most , if not the majority, of viewers know and comprehend that  the model on the front cover is a fake reality?.

For Assignment 4 I have to produce an imaginary magazine or book cover “that lies in the middle ground of the real-fake argument “ Pg. 64 Photography 1 Digital Photography Practice Open College of the Arts . I spent a long time looking at the many books I own and found that the majority had quite simple covers with varying amounts of text. As I am still developing (excuse the pun) my Photoshop skills and did not want to attempt anything too complicated I have chosen to create a fictional book cover. “Covers are sales vehicles for their contents , and so often quite widely interpreted by art directors, illustrators , and photographers. The moral ground is therefore potentially ambiguous.” Pg. 64 Photography 1 Digital Photography Practice Open College of the Arts . Who the book will aimed at , how to make it visually appealing to that particular audience, and importantly genre , all need to be taken into account

On a recent visit to Cornwall I visited Gunwalloe church Cove , also know as Dollar Cove, on the Lizard Peninsular. St Winwaloe, a 15th century church ,  is situated to one side of the cove.  There have been many shipwrecks around the Cornish coast  and myths abound as  to what happened to survivors. A ship carrying gold was wrecked at Gunwalloe in 1780, the area is steeped in ancient history ,  and the church is built on ancient ley lines, making it a very atmospheric place to be. A standing stone  man in the graveyard makes a very eerie tombstone and I really liked the idea of incorporating the ethereal quality of the place into a gothic novel  cover.  As children are often believed to be able to see ghosts that remain unseen by adults , who see the world through more rational or skeptical  eyes, I have chosen to combine an image of a child with the ancient tombstone. I wanted this combination of innocence versus the paranormal to create a rather creepy looking image. 

Both images were shot in Raw and initially optimized and converted to mono in Lightroom. Both images were then opened in Photoshop as two separate layers. I have been experimenting with using textures and decided to use the technique I have been practising  to combine the two images. Using layers I was able to save my work as a layered Tiff image and return to it over several days to review and revise as needed . The final image has nine different layers.
Steps taken.

1.     I made the gravestone image my  bottom  layer and placed  the child’s image above.

2.      I clicked on the bottom image to make it my active layer

3.     Command & A to choose both images

4.     Command & C to copy the bottom image

5.     Command & V  to paste the tombstone image over the child creating a new top layer I renamed Mask

6.     I applied a layer mask to my new top layer and chose this as my active layer to work on.

7.     Command & B to choose the brush tool ,  and selected black to paint over  the areas I wanted to reveal or white to conceal.  

8.     I needed to review the image several times changing the brush size and  going over different areas to show or hide the textures. 

9.     I tried various blending modes before choosing Luminosity at 100 % opacity

10. I  then duplicated the image of the child and named it Eyes dodge and burn

11. Selecting this as my new active layer I used the dodge tool to brighten her eyes and darken her eyelashes and pupils very slightly before placing this layer below my Mask layer.

12. I then set about adding the text and created  four separate layers

13. I chose Franklin Gothic book  font . I am not an expert on typography so was a bit unsure what to choose but I wanted quite simple and understated text. I used the Linear dodge blending mode at 80%

14. My final layer is a warming Photo filter layer set at 57% density  using a Hard light blending mode to create a sepia effect. 

15. I cropped the image to a portrait orientation but needed to adjust my text layers several times to ensure they were included in the final print. This was not something I had not considered at the beginning and would have been beneficial if I had. 

Girl Original image
F6.3        ISO 200             1/100sec            @ 40mm    Bounced flash

Mono conversion 
Gravestone Original image
F4            ISO 100                1/200 sec       @ 70mm

Mono conversion    
I have enjoyed this assignment but is the image too far removed from reality? For the purpose of a book cover I feel the manipulation is justified. I am not using the image to prove ghosts and hauntings exist but to indicate the contents inside, a work of fiction. Therefore I feel morally justified, on this occasion, in creating a false truth. 


19/03/2013 1:11am

I think this works very well and certainly has that gothic, spooky effect. Look forward to seeing more.


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