Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Shinier Fitter Happier People
Some cameras by Sony have a feature called “smile detection.” The camera will wait until it detects a smile before it fires the shutter. We’ll no longer have to command grandpa to “smile for the birdie.” In fact, we can just put the camera on a tripod and wait... and wait.
HP has a “slimming feature” in some of their cameras. The advertisement reads, “They say cameras add ten pounds, but HP digital cameras can help reverse that effect.” Let’s add in an eye brightener, teeth whitener and a de-wrinkle effect. This will save us hours of post processing.
A few years ago, I read an article in a photography magazine where the person took Dorthea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” photograph and touched it up to be a “more pleasing” photograph. After digitally manipulated, the mother had a slight smile, smoother skin, brighter eyes and a less concerned expression. She even had a wardrobe update that made her look quite fashionable. The original message had completely changed from desperation to hopefulness and it no longer promoted social change and awareness.
What does this mean for street photographers? If we embrace these features, we’ll end up with a portfolio of shinier fitter happier people. That’s fine if we’re creating artwork that is not meant to be photojournalistic in nature. However, if we’re doing documentary work, we have a responsibility to be objective as possible and digital manipulation should be used judiciously, if at all. We should capture natural smiles as well as frowns to best represent the human condition.
The Tao Te Ching says, “When people see some things as beautiful, other things become ugly. When people see some things as good, other things become bad.” How we see influences what we see. If we seek the beautiful, we’ll find and record beauty; if we seek the ugly, we’ll find and record the ugly. By removing labels such as “beautiful” and “ugly,” we can focus on shapes, textures, light and shadow and see our world in way that requires no manipulation because it is perfect already.
"Tao Te Ching" by Stephen Mitchell
"Fitter Happier" by Radiohead
"Shiny Happy People" by R.E.M.