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February 12, 2008 3:54 AM   Subscribe

Breathtaking photos. No further links necessary. Rarindra Prakarsa is a photographic amazement.
posted by pjern (122 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
yeah, it amazes how some utterly banal, heavily-photoshopped images such as these can be seen as anything else than uninspired pap -- they're the photographic equivalent of elevator Muzak, ready to be printed on those calendars they sell at the mall's bookstore, together with the Anne Geddes babies and the remaindered Simpsons merchandise nobody has bought since the mid 1990s.
posted by matteo at 4:00 AM on February 12, 2008 [21 favorites]


I dunno. I think many of them actually are quite pretty (which could be as much condemnation as praise, I know), but many of them also seem very posed and processed, which isn't really my cup of tea.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:03 AM on February 12, 2008


Nah, I'll keep taking photos thanks.
posted by Happy Dave at 4:11 AM on February 12, 2008


Too much confectionary, too sweet.
posted by unSane at 4:12 AM on February 12, 2008


there are some nice photos in there, but for the most part, what matteo said.

i can actually see many of these being reproduced on pirated posters all over south-east asia, and displayed on the walls of cheap restaurants along with the ubiquitous shots of waterfalls, cornucopias of fruit, and hideous mcmansions in asian landscape settings.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:15 AM on February 12, 2008


In case anybody needs a headcleaner after all those saccharine idylls.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:19 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


They need more photoshopped rays of light.
posted by teem at 4:22 AM on February 12, 2008 [6 favorites]


Can't go wrong with shots of old toothless blokes smoking a tab. I am available to model the same should any budding photographers be reading.
posted by Abiezer at 4:26 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wahhh! Not authentic! Wahhh! Saccharin! Wahhh! You've got no taste! Wahhh! You've been fooled, tool! Wahhh! Wahhh!

Oh wait...I like them. They are better Hallmark than Hallmark.
posted by mrmojoflying at 4:26 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm missing something in these. It took me a while to realise what it was, then it struck me, this guy isn't using the lens flare filter! Too bad, that would have made them perfect.
posted by AmberV at 4:29 AM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


There's nothing special about dogs playing poker.
posted by three blind mice at 4:30 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


They are better Hallmark than Hallmark.

I think the point is that better Hallmark is no Hallmark.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:32 AM on February 12, 2008


For what it's worth, the artist claims the light is not artificial. I like the images whether they're photos or not.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 4:35 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think it would be cool to see the pre-photoshop images alongside these.
posted by chillmost at 4:36 AM on February 12, 2008


The photographic equivalent of Thomas Kinkade.
posted by sexymofo at 4:48 AM on February 12, 2008 [7 favorites]


What it is to be moved by bad art. Hell, I cry every time I watch Pretty Woman.
posted by rhymer at 4:49 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


His portraits are good.
posted by Caviar at 4:49 AM on February 12, 2008


There's a contentious debate in some photography communities about the integrity of post-processing and what's tasteful and what's not. I've been watching that fight for awhile now on flickr and elsewhere and it's interesting. With some research, I'm sure someone could make a good post out of it with beautiful examples from both sides.

Back to the artist, though; I enjoyed some of his work, but in regards to your title, the game is definitely not over.
posted by empyrean at 4:50 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Anything that looks like this, taken with that kind of camera, with that kind of subject matter, and post processed to that extent is uninspired, saccharine, commercial filler and the "artist" putting it together is a hack.

...until I do it, then everyone should pay attention to me and tell me how good I am.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 4:57 AM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


There's a contentious debate in some photography communities about the integrity of post-processing and what's tasteful and what's not.

Yeh, I have a friend who's an amateur hobbyist photographer & takes some pretty nice shots. He's a devoted film photographer, forever railing against the digital kiddies for a variety of reasons. One is that fact that with no film cost involved - memory cards are an infinitely renewable resource - digital photographers can just shoot in volume & hey! One of a thousand has potential! Now, just gotta crop it, then run it through photoshop...

I'm coming around to his way of thinking, and these photos haven't helped the digital cause one bit, at least for my taste.

(ok, so Asya Schween photoshops her images, so I contradict myself. i plead guilty)
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:01 AM on February 12, 2008


Oh, they're not so bad. I've seen worse. Sure, they're posed. Sure, they look postprocessed to Hell and back. But remember that impressionist and abstract art was a countermovement to a style that was very similar to these photos at the beginning of the last century. Besides, there's a whole market of motivational poster buyers who eat this stuff up with a spoon.
posted by Dave Faris at 5:03 AM on February 12, 2008


IMHO, the images are beautiful, but not particularly interesting. In a way, their sheer quantity and sameness makes it hard to pick out a single photo that's really striking. They'll make good desktop backgrounds though.
posted by Zarkonnen at 5:15 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


No further links necessary.

I'm not so sure about that: a quick search turned up an interesting discussion (1, 2, 3) about Prakarsa's photography at Mark Hobson's blog 'The Landscapist.'
posted by misteraitch at 5:15 AM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


The layman in me says they're pretty. I don't think they're great, I certainly don't think I'd spend a dime on hanging one on my wall, but I sure do like them a lot more than those weird portraits found in the UbuRoivas link. Those reminded me a little of too much high school/college art student trying too hard.
posted by Atreides at 5:15 AM on February 12, 2008


Waaaay too Thomas Kinkaid for my taste. I'll take the funky tongue-removal portraits any day of the week.

It's not that I am opposed to pretty pictures -- hers are just small-p pretty without any tension, any substance, anything beyond just kind of pretty. Really good art takes the pretty and adds something; it's the difference between a travel poster and art, I guess. I don't have the vocabulary the describe the difference exactly, but I sure know it when I see it.
posted by Forktine at 5:22 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


The artist "claims the light is not artificial" and yet goes to some great lengths, presumably, to make it look artificial.

I don't much like these, and would bring any of a thousand other photographs out of a burning building before them, but I'm still glad I saw them.
posted by dirtdirt at 5:26 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hah, I was going to snark about Thomas Kinkade, too. These were awful.
posted by OmieWise at 5:33 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


The pictures were just pretty, in a very bland way. Certainly not breathtaking, and not setting any photography benchmarks.

Game over? Hardly.
posted by triv at 5:37 AM on February 12, 2008


Did someone piss in all you guys' Cheerios this morning? Geez.
posted by pjern at 5:41 AM on February 12, 2008 [4 favorites]


The problem here isn't so much the photoshopped look. A real artist can transcend any problems of the medium. If you can make art with sand, you can make art with photoshop.

The problem is the lack of content. We have kids playing, kids playing, kids staring in wonder, kids playing, one kid laughing, kids playing and then for variety a shot of some kids. Playing.

The Anne Geddes comment is pretty much spot on. A few shots of babies embedded in plants? You are exploring the intersection of human and plant life (or whatever). A full career of babies embedded in plants? You are churning out the same old thing over and over with no insight, introspection or reflection at all.
posted by DU at 5:44 AM on February 12, 2008 [7 favorites]


What, not enough urban decay for you people?

Apart from these looking like the long end of a cheap 70-300 zoom, and the jpg artifacts, and the fact that the shooter is simply too far from the subject in most cases, and the post processing... there is nothing really wrong with the "content" here.

I would love to visit this glade with some happy children and sheep. Of course I would like to be in focus as well.
posted by butterstick at 5:44 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Did someone piss in all you guys' Cheerios this morning? Geez.

So when someone says "game over" should we all just agree so that we don't piss you off?
posted by OmieWise at 5:49 AM on February 12, 2008


Yikes.
I like a good pile-on as much as the next heartless mefite, but after scrubbing the vomit off my 17-month-old's playpen all morning, rinsing my floors of stale milk, and retrieving the cat from the dryer, a coupla pictures with little kids looking sweet and not spewing any kind shit anywhere looks pretty damn inviting.
I'd say Best of the Web.
I'd say I need a nanny, too.
I'm taking a nap, and it isn't even nine a.m. yet.
posted by Dizzy at 5:51 AM on February 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


Really, is it so hard to enjoy things in life, even if it's not the most meaningful and deep thing ever?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:03 AM on February 12, 2008 [4 favorites]


Folks aren't particularly reacting to the photos, as much as the breathless (and I suspect slightly tongue-in-cheek) assertion by the OP that they are somehow groundbreaking and make all other photography pointless. When in reality they're pretty and stuff, but definitely not Henri Cartier Bresson or anything.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:07 AM on February 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


needs more Vallejo.
posted by sgt.serenity at 6:10 AM on February 12, 2008


The thumbnails look like old oil paintings...I'd like to see the photos before they underwent any post-processing.
posted by pepcorn at 6:20 AM on February 12, 2008


Exactly, Happy Dave- My tongue was firmly in my cheek when I wrote the title, at a time when I'm struggling to get a good, simple, still life for an online contest to work and botching it time and time again, and I happen on to someone who can make evocative images seemingly at will, and it is discouraging, in one sense.

So consider the title to be more a first person reaction to it and my circumstances at the moment, and see if that changes your reactions any.

I'd be extremely happy to have someplace that scenic and photogenic to shoot, and still imagine that I wouldn't be able to come up with comparable results.

DU: A full career? Have you seen everything Anne Geddes ever did? Any why do you imagine that this person is a one-trick pony?

All: Yeah it's easy to snark. Fun, sometimes, as well. I'm occasionally guilty of it myself. So, who wants to go invite this photographer in for a critique?
posted by pjern at 6:22 AM on February 12, 2008


I want to sit in that glade with butterstick and the kids, too. It looks like a pleasant place to sit and dream. (Are you any relation to the panda, btw?)
posted by chihiro at 6:37 AM on February 12, 2008


Oh, I see from your profile that you are Tai Shan himself. We'll get you some 'boo and hang out in that pretty light with the kids and sheep.
posted by chihiro at 6:38 AM on February 12, 2008


I'd like to see at least one OMG PHOTOGRAPHER post on Metafilter that wasn't either 1) cloying hyper-processed over-saturated vignetted HDR Nutrasweet or 2) pictures of rusty things taken with a polaroid
posted by 0xFCAF at 6:39 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


the painter of the light!
posted by tarantula at 6:40 AM on February 12, 2008


In my humble opinion, those photos are utter shite. As Matteo rightly said..

yeah, it amazes how some utterly banal, heavily-photoshopped images such as these can be seen as anything else than uninspired pap -- they're the photographic equivalent of elevator Muzak, ready to be printed on those calendars they sell at the mall's bookstore, together with the Anne Geddes babies and the remaindered Simpsons merchandise nobody has bought since the mid 1990s.

Real photography doesn't require hundreds of hours spent in Photoshop.
posted by the_epicurean at 6:41 AM on February 12, 2008


Yeah, pjern, you kinda shot yourself in the foot presentation-wise, with a leeetle too much editorializing. A mystery meat link would have worked better in this case, I think.

As far as the pictures, I guess I don't see the Kincade connection so readily as I see a Norman Rockwell thing happening. So much staged fun, such a provocative sense of vitality, movement, and overall well-being, as if things are really okay where these photographs are taken. Life is good there. The light is a trick, but the folks are all right.
posted by cgc373 at 6:42 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I live in the countryside... and it doesn't look like that.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:47 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd like to see at least one OMG PHOTOGRAPHER post on Metafilter that wasn't either 1) cloying hyper-processed over-saturated vignetted HDR Nutrasweet or 2) pictures of rusty things taken with a polaroid.
posted by 0xFCAF at 9:39 AM on February 12 [+] [!]

Do a search on "Da Shiv". You won't regret it.
posted by The Bellman at 6:55 AM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


At a time in which photography is changing at such a rapid pace, daily, if not hourly, I'm so glad to have the_epicurean to guide me with the one true definition. I've certainly lost my way more than once in the 38 years I've been involved in the hobby.

cgc373: Yeah, I probably did. And I reacted to the Norman Rockwellness of the images. But really, what the hell is wrong with that? Real life is shitty enough. Why can't we have a little rose-coloring and soft filtering once in a while?
posted by pjern at 7:01 AM on February 12, 2008


These are some beautiful images. Some people reacted violently because the poster suggested these were the best possible pictures, or because they're clearly heavily staged and post-processed, or because it's very fashionable to hate things that don't speak to some deep truth about life and suffering.

But the gallery was still quite nice to look at, thanks.
posted by justkevin at 7:06 AM on February 12, 2008


Real photography doesn't require hundreds of hours spent in Photoshop.

Surely it's the finished product that matters, not the tools used to create it?

I don't see how a photographer editing a photo in Photoshop is much different to a writer editing a book in a word processor. I expect there are writers who claim the word processor has had a detrimental effect on the institution of writing and that sentences should spring full-formed from your quill. Those people are wrong. Maybe the greatest books will always be written by hand, and the greatest photographs will always be taken on film, but modern technologies mean artistry is no longer restricted to privileged elites with the time, education and resources to make their art the slow way.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 7:09 AM on February 12, 2008


Yeah, justkevin. But the deeper question to me is what does it say about us when it's fashionable to hate something?
posted by pjern at 7:10 AM on February 12, 2008


Yeah, justkevin. But the deeper question to me is what does it say about us when it's fashionable to hate something?

Oh bullshit.
posted by OmieWise at 7:14 AM on February 12, 2008


People hating on Photoshop -- just because -- are fucking idiots, and you can ignore them. People should be concerned about the images themselves, not the work required to produce them. Photoshop can be used to really push the artistry of photography forward.

That said, this fellows body of work is pretty boring and repetitive.
posted by chunking express at 7:24 AM on February 12, 2008


Rarindra Prakarsa is obviously positioning himself to land the very lucrative upcoming Suicide Booth TM account.
posted by sourwookie at 7:24 AM on February 12, 2008


And pjern, people are hating on this particular post because of the way you hyped this fellow up, not because it's fashionable.
posted by chunking express at 7:25 AM on February 12, 2008


Real photography doesn't require hundreds of hours spent in Photoshop.

This brings up a curious point: Is there some limit to post processing a photo to the point where it's no longer considered a photo? If so, what does it become?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:28 AM on February 12, 2008


I'll take this sort of work over the hideous HDR crap everyone and their brother is foisting upon the world nowadays. The post-processing may be a bit heavy in certain shots, and some of the scenes may appear staged, but it's attractive work nonetheless. The composition is especially nice, and that's not something you can fake all that easily in Photoshop. And a lot of the weird color tones could be achieved with the use of filters at the time of the shot.

Believe it or not, a lot of the stuff you can do in Photoshop can be replicated in the field and in the darkroom with the right gear and the right knowledge, and photographers were making use of those tricks and techniques long before the advent of digital photography and digital post-processing. You know, back when photography was "authentic". Or something.

I'll admit... I kind of wonder how many people moaning about the post-processing would be doing backflips over similarly (if not even more) post-processed photos if the subject matter were different.

And, for what it's worth, I mostly shoot landscapes and street portraits, and try to keep my post-processing to a minimum. Good glass, good light, and good technique = less time playing with curves and sliders in Photoshop.
posted by jal0021 at 7:33 AM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


Risible softcore poverty-/eco-porn.

Hilariously, I thought of Sebastiao Salgado for a moment - people slaving horribly in some open cast mine/dying in a refugee camp/etc. turned into a lavish spectacle to drool over (yeah, I know that's the opposite of Salgado's intent, but his stuff always looks icky and fetishistic to me...). I suppose Soviet realist propaganda is closer to the mark, though.

Unless they're satirical?
posted by jack_mo at 7:35 AM on February 12, 2008


pjern, before you get yourself into any deeper water accusing everyone here of criticizing these photos because its "fashionable" to do so, take a look at the links misteraitch provides. The discussion is indeed fascinating, and provides a bit more meat on the bones of the pretty-but-too-photoshopped arguments.

Strangely, the first thing that struck me when I looked at these was Maxfield Parrish.
posted by googly at 7:35 AM on February 12, 2008


I'll admit... I kind of wonder how many people moaning about the post-processing would be doing backflips over similarly (if not even more) post-processed photos if the subject matter were different.

Good point. I can certainly imagine a very different response if the subject matter were New York hipsters and the Manhattan skyline.
posted by googly at 7:37 AM on February 12, 2008


This brings up a curious point: Is there some limit to post processing a photo to the point where it's no longer considered a photo? If so, what does it become?

A photograph is a photo-graph, i.e. a graph plotting color as a function of a pixel's X and Y co-ordinates. As soon as you change the raw data, it's no longer an accurate graph, hence no longer really a photo-graph, but merely an "image".

Perhaps the test of the finished product is whether you believe it is still an image your eyes are capable of seeing naturally.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 7:41 AM on February 12, 2008


I don't see how a photographer editing a photo in Photoshop is much different to a writer editing a book in a word processor.

For sure. Because most writers conceive of a book by being in the right place at the right time, and knowing how best to focus on their subjects, how much depth of text to apply to the surroundings, and how to weight the subject vis-a-vis the rest of what's going on in the novel. The entire book appears in a flash, and the rest is just a matter of editing, much of which is automated by the word processor.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:43 AM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


A photograph is a photo-graph, i.e. a graph plotting color as a function of a pixel's X and Y co-ordinates. As soon as you change the raw data, it's no longer an accurate graph, hence no longer really a photo-graph, but merely an "image".

Right, just like a phonograph is a chart of the bits in an audio recording. If you change the raw recording by mixing or amplifying it, it's no longer a phono-graph, but merely "sound." It's common sense, really.
posted by designbot at 7:50 AM on February 12, 2008


Perhaps the test of the finished product is whether you believe it is still an image your eyes are capable of seeing naturally.

I've purchased photographs that look like you're there and ones where there was clearly a camera involved. I see no reason to describe the latter as less than the former.

I'm not particularly interested in these photographs, but the arguments about post-processing and realism are absurd. Much historically significant art is important specifically because it combined a willingness to break the rules of the day with great talent.

I'm not convinced this artist has that "great talent", but complaints about post-processing are dull, boring and misguided.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 7:58 AM on February 12, 2008


Believe it or not, a lot of the stuff you can do in Photoshop can be replicated in the field and in the darkroom with the right gear and the right knowledge, and photographers were making use of those tricks and techniques long before the advent of digital photography and digital post-processing. You know, back when photography was "authentic". Or something.

Yes, but photoshop has lowered the barriers to entry for that sort of thing. Previously, only professionals or the very dedicated hobbyists & artists could or would ever bother learning these darkroom techniques or setting up a darkroom for themselves. That shit costs. And it could be that the ubiquity of photoshopping has generated a lot of cynicism & desire for the good old days. Hey, I'd have much more respect for a darkroom artist than any photoshopper, but maybe I'm some kind of luddite.

I'll admit... I kind of wonder how many people moaning about the post-processing would be doing backflips over similarly (if not even more) post-processed photos if the subject matter were different.

Probably true. I think these photos should be put into an album called "Uncanny Valley". Just too hyper-real, but in an ersatz kind of way. If that was intended as some kind of artistic statement I might be able to respect it, but the photographer would have to be able to move on & do something a bit different in his next project. Just take a look at all those thumbnails & say that the guy isn't a one-trick pony, seriously. And that pony happens to align closely to motivational posters and similar kinds of predictable crap that moves only my bowels.

But speaking of post-processed photos, does Tracey Moffatt count? I've been a fan of her work for a long time, but I'm not sure how it's done, technically.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:01 AM on February 12, 2008


I'll take this sort of work over the hideous HDR crap everyone and their brother is foisting upon the world nowadays.

There's a third option, one that I prefer: images that look real. I don't mind a little post-processing. I'd mostly like to see what the photographer saw with her own eyes. That is asking a lot, I know, but asking people to cut back on the fantasy-glow enhancements is not asking too much.
posted by yath at 8:05 AM on February 12, 2008


Hilariously, I thought of Sebastiao Salgado for a moment

I thought of Salgado also, but as an example of what this photographer is not. His work (fetishistic and didactic as it is) is beautifully composed and layered with meaning. These pictures are suitable for a mediocre dentist's waiting room at best -- they are "pretty" and nothing else. Salgado creates a really fascinating tension by having such beautiful photos... of such awful subjects. (Again, there is a lot to criticize about Salgado and his imitators, but they are at least attempting art; this photographer is attempting pablum.)
posted by Forktine at 8:11 AM on February 12, 2008


UbuRoivas writes "One of a thousand has potential!"

Sure! And Ansel Adams produced a masterpiece with every frame, he never had to throw out a single bit of film. No way did he spend hours getting the light just right and taking roll after roll to get just the photo he wanted. The only difference between taking good photos with film vs. digital is that with digital it's cheaper. The rest is up to the skill of the photographer (and luck).

pjern writes "Did someone piss in all you guys' Cheerios this morning?"

Had oatmeal, actually, but thanks for inquiring.

hoverboards don't work on water writes "I don't see how a photographer editing a photo in Photoshop is much different to a writer editing a book in a word processor."

Because writing, re-writing, changing and tweaking is how written works have always been produced. The only difference is that with a word processor, changing one line doesn't require hand-writing (or re-typing, or re-setting) one or more entire pages of writing. The ability to change what was written has always existed. Word processors do not give authors magical new abilities. A poor author can't run his crap through the Word Auto-Pulitzer filter and end up with a best-seller.

With photography, well, there are options now that did not exist before digital. If you use film, you take a good picture, and tweak it slightly during processing, but you can't change the composition after it was filmed, not without an awful lot of work (such as airbrushing the final print). Yes, I know that there are alot of little darkroom tricks that can help fix minor issues with film, but they don't compare to the tools available to digital manipulation. With digital, any idiot with a copy of Photoshop can instantly add Dramatic Lens Flare™ or magically remove blemishes and red-eye (or even buildings and people), color-or contrast-correct photos, false-color the image, and in general do a lot of other post-processing tricks to fix errors or enhance the photo.

In short, if you want a perfect photo of a famous building, with film you have to wait and wait and wait until there's nobody in your frame, and then hope that the light is still good. With digital, just take a bunch of photos from the same spot, and combine bits to delete people from the final composition. We've gone from "oh shit that one guy moved and now one part of the group portrait of these Union soldiers is blurry" to "damn, this war scene isn't dramatic enough, let's add more smoke over there and maybe a broken child's toy in the foreground."
posted by caution live frogs at 8:19 AM on February 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


Ridley Scott called, he needs his fog machine back.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:23 AM on February 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


I spend a lot of time at Photo.net, and I saw these photos in a different context than is presented here. I saw one. Then saw another a bit later. Then several more. Etc etc. And my impressions, long before I read this thread, progressed like this -

- That's a cool photo.
- That's a cool photo..... but it sure looks just like that other photo.
- That would be cool.... if it wasn't just like those others.
- Okay..... what was cool is just silly at this point.
- Isn't it odd how easy it is to ruin a good thing?
- Would you freakin BACK AWAY from the Photoshop already??!!

The artist has made himself into a hack. Any creative value has been bled out. It was cool, but now it's just bulk calendar work.
posted by Ragma at 8:28 AM on February 12, 2008


caution live frogs: did you contradict your Ansel Adams point in the second part of that comment?

It's not that film photographers never waste a shot. The point is more that digital photographers aren't penalised for fucking up a shot, because it wastes nothing other than their own time, and they can often correct it after the fact, as you yourself point out.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:30 AM on February 12, 2008


Real photography doesn't require hundreds of hours spent in Photoshop.
posted by the_epicurean at 9:41 AM on February 12


This needs to be emphasized. While photoshopping is perfectly acceptable, it isn't photography, it's photoshop. I saw the linked photos a week or so ago on reddit, and have read the discussions all over about how he does it, etc. They are definitely photoshopped, and the artist admits to dodging and burning.

A few weeks ago I saw an exhibit of Ansel Adams photography. This photo in particular was stunning to see in person. The digital reproductions online and copies in books do not do it justice. I looked at the photo and thought I was falling down the face of that cliff.

Notice how that edge between the cliff faces cuts rut up the center line of the photo, and notice how the upper right is dominated by blacks and the lower left by white. Notice how the lower right and upper left are the opposite. These are choices Adams made to create both movement and harmony in the image. Not movement at the expense of harmony, or vice versa. No amount of photoshopping or processing can improve this photo, they can only detract from the work Adams put into it before he released the shutter.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:33 AM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oddly enough, and I have no idea, I thought "What if Gregory Crewdson were much, much less interesting"?
posted by The Bellman at 8:35 AM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


no idea why*
posted by The Bellman at 8:36 AM on February 12, 2008


I recently spent a month on a Tropical Island in Central America. Quite possibly the most picturesque place I've ever been. Every picture I took looked fake. The clouds looked painted on, the sunrays peeking out from behind them looked like a photoshop filter. In every picture the sky was a perfect shade of blue, and the water reflected everything perfectly. There was no shortage of geckos being adorable, butterflies landing on objects just at the right time, parrots being all parrot-y. Every person I took a picture of was tanned, happy and bathed in perfect golden light. Even with my crappy digital p&s every pic came out perfect.

After two days of this, I got bored and quit taking pictures.

I recently had to find a picture of myself, and came up with a picture from that trip. My business partner took one look at it and said "That's not a picture of you, that's a beautiful picture of the sky, that you just happen to be in."
posted by billyfleetwood at 8:40 AM on February 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


"No amount of photoshopping or processing can improve this photo, they can only detract from the work Adams put into it before he released the shutter."

Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships. - Ansel Adams

Adams' fame can be attributed to his skill at post processing as much as his composition.
posted by Ragma at 8:41 AM on February 12, 2008 [5 favorites]


No amount of photoshopping or processing can improve this photo

[rolls eyes] You think the sky really faded to black like that in the upper-left corner? Ansel Adams literally wrote the book on post-processing.
posted by designbot at 8:48 AM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


Prett, but kind of a one-trick pony.
posted by Mister_A at 8:59 AM on February 12, 2008


Did someone piss in all you guys' Cheerios this morning? Geez.

Yes. His name was Rarindra Prakarsa. Or maybe his name was pjern. your pick.

Point is this: If you imagine any of these images as stills from a movie there isn't a single person in the world who would think "how did they shoot that scene to look like that?" Everyone would know that there was a tremendous amount of highly skilled post coloring work done. And in the end, that coloring work, and even the initial photography, would be complimented. But the success of the overall film would depend on the narrative to deliver something more meaningful than pretty images. That's ok, that's how film often works. The imagery doesn't have to hold the whole thing together, it's happily one part of a whole. Photography doesn't have that luxury. One image has to tell the whole story, by itself. The entire history of photography is a search for truth one image at a time. However obscured that truth might be, however much it may lie within the Visual details and artistry rather than any kind of a story or moral implication (see Stephen Shore), its presence still affects the final outcome. Others disagree with me on this, but to my mind that can easily include heavily photoshopped images.

But these images? They're empty. There is no truth here. There is nothing here but very nice colors and lights and sweet lies to make people look happy and idyllic. They're empty photographs made pretty through heavy photoshop work.

In short, this is the work of a Michael Bay for photography. Excuse me, yet another Michael Bay for photography. All pretty post work, vacuous in every other sense. Or as someone else said upthread, a photographic Thomas Kinkade.

Compounded on that is the presentation, both on your part and his, that this is excellent photography. It may be, but we can't know, because what we're inundated with is excellent photoshop work. It's gorgeous, sumptuous color and lighting work in photoshop. There's nothing wrong with that, but there's simply no way to know if they were beautiful pictures otherwise. This is why even people who support the digital revolution in photography wince when they see someone submitting something with heavy color correction done to it as a photography contest submission or a piece of photographic journalism. There was a post to the blue made a long time ago which I don't have the time to look for about a guy who won an award for an excellent image he took of an african sunset that he had photoshopped to make the sky look redder and more dramatic. When it was discovered just how much the photo had been corrected he was scandalized and lost the award. Why? Because all photos must be taken raw? of course not. But because there's an expectation that you can see honest photographic technique present in an image. That any doctoring that's THAT heavy simply means you're a good photoshopper (nothing to be ashamed of) and doesn't speak to your photograph taking ability. Submit it as evidence of your photoshop skills wherever you like, but photography is different.

So here we have someone calling him a photographic amazement. And he claims, for himself, that he hasn't doctored the light in his photos. You know what that does to these photos for a lot of people who care about photography? Now they're not just empty. Now they're empty lies. And that's before you take into account the lies these photos tell about life in Indonesia. Just from a purely aesthetic and visual standpoint these things are reduced to being nothing more than empty lies. So yeah, that pisses in my cheerios a bit. Call me crazy, I expect more from photography and art. and on metafilter when you make a claim like that - one that can euphemistically be called bold - people are gonna call you on it.
posted by shmegegge at 9:00 AM on February 12, 2008 [7 favorites]


Previously, only professionals or the very dedicated hobbyists & artists could or would ever bother learning these darkroom techniques or setting up a darkroom for themselves.

Yeah, and previously, only bands who could get signed to major labels could have their music recorded, mixed, and mastered professionally and distributed to the general public, but I doubt many of the same people who make a big fuss about Photoshop giving hobbyists the tools to produce quailty images would complain about some unsigned indie band producing CDs in a basement somewhere.

Sure, digital photography and digital post-processing has made it easier for a lot of bad photographers to share their work with the world, but it's also made it easier for a lot of good photographers to share their work with the world as well. And, as someone who appreciates good photography, I think that's a good thing. It's not like good photography is cheapened by the mere existence of bad photography.
posted by jal0021 at 9:08 AM on February 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


one that can euphemistically be called bold

This post really needs to be retitled The Bold & The Beautiful.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:10 AM on February 12, 2008


I doubt many of the same people who make a big fuss about Photoshop giving hobbyists the tools to produce quailty images would complain about some unsigned indie band producing CDs in a basement somewhere.

That depends entirely on the quality of the band. For example, would they be the kind of band that would write the score for a slideshow of these photos?*

* and not be Nurse With Wound
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:13 AM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


favorited for mentioning Nurse with Wound
posted by shmegegge at 9:29 AM on February 12, 2008


I could care less how manipulated the photos are. They're banal. They're like Kenny G.
posted by Nelson at 9:38 AM on February 12, 2008


Oh good, I have been waiting for the Indonesian Lord of the Rings remake. Nice production stills.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 9:42 AM on February 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh, it's on, pjern. It's so on!

*Assembles room full of babies in kitten costumes sitting in oversized fruit hung from willow trees, whips out Kodak Disc 4000, shoots, scores!*
posted by ericbop at 9:57 AM on February 12, 2008


At a time in which photography is changing at such a rapid pace, daily, if not hourly ...

Actually photography isn't changing all that much. The process has changed a lot, but the same things that made a great photograph 50 years ago are the same today: composition and light.
posted by Eekacat at 9:57 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


My point above being spend your time out with the camera rather than in front of the glowing screen. As you learn composition and exposure, the less time you need doing karate on your images with photoshop to make them palatable.
posted by Eekacat at 10:00 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow, that metaphor makes my head hurt, Eekacat. The Photoshop verb maps onto karate, so you're karate chopping the images, which are then . . . tenderized? So we can taste them and the taste is palatable? My mind, she shrieks, she questions, she cannot imagine this!
posted by cgc373 at 10:11 AM on February 12, 2008


Well, I do generally love me some "god cloud" pictures - you know, sun slanting down to spotlight some perfect moment. But these are too godcloudy even for me. Whoever said upthread that there's no tension there is right. I'm not a photographer, I'm not an artist, but these photos are just...they have no heart. And they all look the same.

The photos from this FPP knocked my socks off. I guess there's probably some photoshopping there, too, but to me at least it doesn't fling itself forward and say "HI! I'VE BEEN PHOTOSHOPPED!" the way the photos in this post do.
posted by rtha at 10:14 AM on February 12, 2008


I think the pictures are no great shakes, but the Dogme 95 people on here are hilarious.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:21 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


only william eggleston has never, ever taken a bad shot.
posted by sgt.serenity at 10:37 AM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Pastabagel, maybe you need to find out what dodging and burning means in the context of printing a photograph from a negative. Ansel Adams wrote a whole book on post processing.
posted by chunking express at 10:59 AM on February 12, 2008


What a smoky, foggy dusty place. To shoot in real locations, and end up with that much visible light means the ambient air is thick. I think many of them are quite nice.
posted by MythMaker at 11:00 AM on February 12, 2008


cgc373, I don't believe that I used Photoshop as a verb (you'll have to excuse the not capitalizing typo). And yes, I do believe people are beating the images into a puree so the go down easier. Just add a spoon full of sugar too.
posted by Eekacat at 11:02 AM on February 12, 2008


You didn't use Photoshop as a verb, Eekacat; I just interpreted the karate image as a way to refer to using Photoshop, and then I confused things further by using the verb "map," which probably wasn't the wisest writing choice I've ever made. And in fact, the thing is meant as a joke in any case, because I really have no headache and I like the imagery. I like suggestive, vivid prose. No criticism intended.
posted by cgc373 at 11:21 AM on February 12, 2008


I'd love to be able to use Photoshop that well.
posted by straight at 11:22 AM on February 12, 2008


Those who can, do. Those who can't write snarky messages on the internet.
posted by tkolar at 12:22 PM on February 12, 2008


maybe that's because we can do other stuff, and aren't out to prove ourselves as photographers.

like me, for example, i'm alright at writing snarky messages on the internet. that's my thing.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:29 PM on February 12, 2008


Those who can, do. Those who can't write snarky messages on the internet.

And those of us who can't do anything else get really, really sublime at it!
posted by mrmojoflying at 12:31 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Forktine: "Hilariously, I thought of Sebastiao Salgado for a moment

I thought of Salgado also, but as an example of what this photographer is not. His work (fetishistic and didactic as it is) is beautifully composed and layered with meaning. These pictures are suitable for a mediocre dentist's waiting room at best -- they are "pretty" and nothing else. Salgado creates a really fascinating tension by having such beautiful photos... of such awful subjects. (Again, there is a lot to criticize about Salgado and his imitators, but they are at least attempting art; this photographer is attempting pablum.)
"

Absolulutely. (I was trying to imply all that in my 'hilariously'!)
posted by jack_mo at 12:38 PM on February 12, 2008


FWIW, I don't think the sunbeams are photoshopped. (Dust/fog + natural gobo such as a tree or a window + sunlight = very common in nature.) The images are photoshopped, sure, but I don't think that part was faked. I do, however, think there's entirely enough of the sunbeams already. One or two more and I'd gag.

The composition is interesting, though like the sunbeams, it's awfully repetitive.

The real failing of the photos is that there's no actual content other than their "breathtaking" (ugh...) quality.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:49 PM on February 12, 2008


My breath, taken.

My lunch, in my trash can due to scmaltz overload.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:55 PM on February 12, 2008


(And, yeah, Pastabagel, Ansel Adams pretty much invented dodging and burning.)
posted by Sys Rq at 12:55 PM on February 12, 2008


Pjern, I laugh out loud at you...

Those photos are shit, and always will be in my opinion, as there's no real creativity with the camera.

He's great as a touch up artist though..

I imagine he'd do well in a funeral home.
posted by the_epicurean at 1:20 PM on February 12, 2008


Thanks for the pointers to Adams's book on the print. I knew he did darkroom work to his photos (among other places, it was discussed in the exhibit), but I was referring more to the heavy processing with layers, gradients, selective blurring etc that this guy does that Adams didn't do, or at least not to this extreme degree. In particular, the discussion on reddit identified this technique for creating the kinds of photos on the linked site.

I'm not criticizing the photographer or the photographs, but I stand by what I wrote about Adams thinking first about the composition and the image. I guess I can't really articulate what it is that there is too much of in these photos that is not in the one by Adams (which is just an example), and why that photo by Adams makes for a more contemplative image than those here, at least to me. Would these photos be as compelling without the photoshopping? Does the manner in which they've been manipulated limit or constrain the feelings the photo can evoke? In the end, though, I suppose it's a matter of opinion, like anything else. But I do agree with shmeggege that these photos are very much in the spirit of Michael Bay.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:26 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


"I expect there are writers who claim the word processor has had a detrimental effect on the institution of writing and that sentences should spring full-formed from your quill."

Talk to Ralph Ellison about that.

I think for me the fundamental failing of these images is that they're essentially one sensation—pretty. Not beautiful, which implies something deeper, but the glossy sheen of something that's meant to be glanced at and discarded. They're masturbatory. And that's fine—everyone should jerk off. But it makes for a pretty thin post.
posted by klangklangston at 1:40 PM on February 12, 2008


Pjern, I laugh out loud at you...

I think that's completely uncalled for, especially from someone who hasn't deigned to make a front page post himself.

I also suspect that if you were to see just one of these photos, maybe blown up to 22x34 or 44x72, I think you'd probably be better able to appreciate the finer qualities of the images. I think that 3 dozen thumbnails, all looking very much alike, just overwhelms you and causes a sort of sensory overload.

I can tell you this much ... if they were submitted, one by one, in a flickr photostream, every one would probably be featured in Explore.
posted by Dave Faris at 2:07 PM on February 12, 2008 [3 favorites]


Pastabagel, why do you think he hasn't put much thought into the composition of his photos? He's placed the children and scenery where they are with a purpose I would say. He is clearly going for a particular aesthetic, and the photos would certainly have a story-book look to them even if he hadn't gone overboard with all the blurring, etc.

I do think they are boring pictures, but not because of all the photochopping.
posted by chunking express at 2:37 PM on February 12, 2008


Sidestepping obvious questions about quality, the header 'Just put down your camera. Game over,' is one of the most fucking ignorant things I've ever read on this site. Excellent job.
posted by Football Bat at 3:47 PM on February 12, 2008


Laugh all you want, the_epicurean. Mind sharing with us your Flickr gallery? Or do you just sit there and snark from your parent's spare bedroom?

I'll take the snarks from matteo, and ubu, and cgc, because they are real people who contribute around here, and have mostly earned respect from me and others. Learn to do more than call other people names, and people might actually listen to you. Otherwise, you're just annoying noise.

Football Bat: Look up. See that dot up there, waaay up there? That's the point of the joke flying over your head.
posted by pjern at 3:59 PM on February 12, 2008


MetaFilter in a nutshell: if the poster says the subject is horrible, most MeFites will disagree; if the poster says the subject is wonderful, most MeFites will disagree.

On topic: as a photographer, I accept that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Not everyone will like my work, and some will like certain images more than others.

And since all photographs capture a moment in time (whether from Polaroid or large-format or anything in between) they have some amount of intrinsic value to someone.

Yes, even the bad ones.
posted by bwg at 4:12 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Inspirational" boardroom posters, just waiting for their slogans.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:55 PM on February 12, 2008


A person is not an "amazement". A person can cause amazement, however, say by abusing the English language or by having very bad taste in photography. (Just joining in the bitchiest thread ever...)
posted by w0mbat at 8:33 PM on February 12, 2008


How disappointing.
posted by pantufla_milagrosa at 10:42 PM on February 12, 2008


wow. i sense the presence of greatness here, in the form of a master of sarcasm so deftly & (paradoxically) understatedly hyperbolic that it could only be surpassed by The Creator himself. *awe*
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:10 AM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


I dunno if they would hold up so well blown up as the cameras that took them don't have terribly high resolution. As for the quality, it's ok. As is usually the case with photography links on the blue, I've seen better on flickr.

Oh, and here are some of my pictures for full disclosure.
posted by Poagao at 2:35 AM on February 13, 2008


To overuse the car analogy...

Have you seen the BMW 507? Wow, what a car! I mean, that's it! You can't build a better car then that! Just close up your workshop and walk away from your tools! HEY YOU! YOU WITH THE SOCKET WRENCH! I SAID Put. Down. The. Socket. Wrench! Game over! Stop trying! You can't! No! Stop it! You'll never do any better. Never, ever. You're nothing. The 507 is eternal. You have to stop now.

I'll stop now.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:15 AM on February 13, 2008


And as for the photos...

All I have to say is, the moment Nikon or Canon or whomever comes up with a way to encrypt a one-way checksum into their images to validate that the shots haven't been tampered with... the better the world of photography (and photojournalism, I suppose) will be.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:19 AM on February 13, 2008


At all? Are you kidding? You can alter photos in myriad ways before ever getting to the editing process. And cropping, burning and dodging, etc., were everyday things in the pre-digital days of photojournalism. All that bothers me about sets like this is the idea that *over*-processed (or even heavily processed) equals good.
posted by raysmj at 6:30 AM on February 13, 2008


Except the cameras themselves tamper with the photos, usually by sharpening them and increasing contrast and saturation. Not to mention that there are no 'real' colors-- cameras, monitors, printers, and your eyes all have different gamuts and making sure that colors look consistent between them is as much art as science.

The hardest part is matching the colors the camera records to the colors a person sees: the human eye + brain combination isn't a passive sensor that faithfully returns irradiance in certain spectral ranges, but rather an active system that adapts to different lighting conditions to ensure that objects with known colors retain those colors regardless of ambient light (this is why white paper looks white in both fluorescent and incandescent light, even though 'objectively' the former is blue and the latter is red). Cameras attempt to solve this problem with white balance, and many cameras will automatically attempt to set white balance according to the lighting conditions.

Furthermore, most digital cameras use Bayer filters, so getting to the nice rectangular grid that you expect involves a demosaicing step that must interpolate between spatially distant points of different colors, and this can be done in various ways with slightly different results.

In short, there is no such thing as an untampered digital photograph.
posted by Pyry at 8:37 AM on February 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


I tend to judge these things by whether you notice the effect or the subject first, regardless of how much post processing has been applied. If you notice the subject first, you've probably got a "photograph". If you notice the effect first, you've probably got an art piece that's something other than a "photograph". This compounds over multiple images - if you put a bunch of them together and you look at them, and you go "wow, what an excellent set of portraits", you probably have an excellent set of portraits. If, on the other hand, you look at them and say "what a great collection of images, the color and contrast are so striking and otherworldly", then you've probably got yet another piece of pap.

Simply put, at least for me, special effects alone just aren't terribly interesting anymore, other than for novelty value on the first viewing, after which my response is usually a resounding "meh". Interesting stories drive great photography, not the number of layers you used in Photoshop.

To illustrate:

This image is interesting. I want to know more about that kid, what he's playing, and why they're wearing soccer uniforms. The yellow is incidental. This image is not. I couldn't care less about how many shades of green there are, no matter how much you tell me that the fuzzy kids are walking to school through them.
posted by Caviar at 5:17 AM on February 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Many of these photos are extremely pretty on their own and show a good sense of composition and colour. But looking at them all at once is like gorging on Easter candy.

Overall, they feel like a lost portfolio from Maxfield Parrish.
posted by maudlin at 7:03 AM on March 10, 2008


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