In Praise Of InnacuracyTuesday, December 13, 2011
In my photography I have always felt pride in displaying portraits that reflect my attitude of showing people as they are in as accurate a way as possible. I have written about recently here.
In the darkroom when I print my b+w negatives, the nature of darkroom work prevents me from going over the top in correcting my subjects’ perceived flaws. I always resort to light and shadow to minimize such flaws.
But since so much of what you may see here in my blog is the result of an efficient relationship between two worlds, the digital one (I use an Epson V700 scanner) and that of film, there is the temptation of using Photoshop to place penguins in the Arctic and polar bears in McMurdo Sound. People do just that because like the old dog, they can. Photoshop can remove rings under eyes and smooth skin to make it as radiant as Catherine Deneuve in her prime. Anybody who has ever closely looked at opera programs will have noticed that divas look at least 10 years younger in the pictures. In many cases that is a fact!
I try to use Photoshop sparingly and when I have to have good prints or giclées made I go to Grant Simmons at DISC who has a light touch and you never know from looking at his magnificent prints that his hand has been there.
But we photographers have all been lured by the special effects that have been usually the result of an unforeseen accident or simply the result of doing the wrong thing. Thus unknowingly sending a roll of slide film to be processed as a colour negative brought us what is now called cross-processing. That effect is mimicked by the best photo corrections suites including Photoshop.
Some months ago a model friend of mine told me she had 50 rolls of old film in her fridge. “Do you want it?” she asked me. I was reluctant to take up her offer as I knew that it would probably be very old and terrible film. It was! It was President’s Choice, No-Name 800 ISO colour negative film in 24 exposure rolls. I have since found out that the film, no longer made, was manufactured by Fuji.
What does this film produce? When I scan it I have opted to use the color restoration feature of my Epson. It warms up the usually greenish/cyan/blue tint of old film. The result is a picture that looks like badly restored faded Technicolor. And I absolutely love it! Back in July when my wife, two granddaughters and I drove our Malibu to south Texas my very favourite pictures are the ones taken with No-Name. It is absolutely crazy to take pictures in beautiful sunny days with an 800 ISO film. And yet…
I am down to about 8 rolls and I am keeping it for important projects. Here is a portrait of Lauren, 9, which I took back in August in our garden without my usual flash softbox. I attempted to colour correct the picture marginally. You will note that her hair at the top is greenish. If I attempt to make it less green it will make her face more red. This is called a colour shift and nothing can really be done (except maybe Grant Simmons at DISC). I love it as it is. I have modified the photograph by using the dodging tool of Photoshop to lighten the iris of Lauren’s eyes. The result for me is a striking photograph/portrait that is not in the least accurate. So much for my almost lifelong conviction.