Photography – Art vs Documentary

Often we hear people commenting that digital photography is “fake” as one can actually manipulate the picture in any form that he or she likes. Some even go as far as dismissing digital photography and encouraging people to get back to films as they are more “pure”. I guess people are missing the point here, as film days already involved in post processing in darkroom. It’s just that it is much easier to be done in the digital era.

To me, whether you are capturing on digital or film, it doesn’t matter. It’s just a form of medium that you choose to work with in order to achieve what you want, a.k.a. your vision. And that vision alone is vastly different among everyone. My point of view is, generally you can divide the photographers into two major groups: those who pursue photography as a form of art and those who pursue photography as a form of documentary.

For those who pursue photography as an art, they will let their imagination runs within the pictures. What they fantasized in their mind is sometimes (in fact most of the time) something that can hardly be seen in actual life or reality. Hence, they took a picture as a base to start with, and “paint” their imaginations and fantasies in through post processing.

For those who pursue photography as documentary, they might tend to be more conservative in terms of post processing. Perhaps they will try to preserve the scene as how they saw it with their eyes. Stories will be told through their composition and subject, or maybe a series of photos that present the whole view of the photographer.

Of course there will be photographer who lies in between the two groups. They document, but at the same time they are willing to go a step further to edit or manipulate the picture in order to achieve perfection, or to achieve what he or she visualized and perceived about the scene.

This is where the “there’s no right or wrong in photography” phrase makes sense. I won’t say any of them are right or wrong. End of the day, is your picture, your story. If you are going to dismiss people who manipulate their picture as cheater or liar, do you also mean that painters from all around the world are cheaters and liars too as they are not translating something from the real world into their paintings?

Perhaps it’s time for everyone to chill out and stop arguing on this. It brings us nowhere but dividing the photographer community by labeling one another. Let’s spent more of our time to talk about something that actually will improve our photography instead. Till then.

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