Real or Imagined: Fact or Fiction?

Do we all see the same way? No, our perceptions of, for example an accident or what someone was wearing, differ, often to quite an extent. The human eye can see millions of colours but our brains process these colours in different ways. We also use different labels for the same colour. What I might call Burnt Umber you might call Brown and someone else might call Tan. Artists who paint and fashion designers use a particular colour terminology to describe the tints, tones and shades of hues whereas the general public tend to speak in more generic terms. Below is a study in the brown tones titled 20,000 Miles Above which illustrates perfectly the possible range of tints, tones and hues. Sorry but the artist was not named. It's a giclee print on canvas and possibly not even done by a human!! Paintings are now being produced by AI (Artificial Intelligence) which is extremely scary and makes for an even more interesting argument about real or imagined. Just think about it. You could be following an artist who is not human!! In fact, this blog is being written by..... no, I'm very real as my friends will assure you!
(Credit: Osnat Fine Art)

Our perception of reality is changing and this is happening in the world of art more so than anywhere else. What is perception, how do you tell fact from fiction, what is reality and what is imagined? Technology in particular is not only assisting in the blurring of the lines between imagination and reality but is encouraging people to see how far the blurring of reality can go. The works of Erik Johannson challenges our perception of reality. This image isn't a landscape it is a soundscape. And how cleverly he has blurred the lines of the sound with the outline of a distant city and landscape.

Erik Johansson (born 1985) is a Swedish-born artist based in Prague who creates surreal images by recombining photographs and other materials.He captures ideas by combining images in new ways to create what looks like a real photograph, yet with logical inconsistencies to impart an effect of surrealism. Some finished images are the combination of "hundreds of original photographs" as well as raw materials, and Johansson spends dozens of hours using image manipulation software such as Adobe Photoshop to alter the image digitally and to illustrate his idea. Reporter Robert Krulwich wrote that Johansson creates a "meticulous fantasy" which is "part photograph, part construction, part drawing" with "so many layers of foolery in his images, you can't pull the illusion apart, it fits together so perfectly." (Wikipedia)

And this is The Architect which plays with your understanding and ability to perceive perspective - the representation of 3D objects on a 2D surface so as to give the right impression of their height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other.

Imagination versus reality is a controversial issue in photography. I want to share with you some thoughts on this topic expressed by Melbourne photographer Pam Morris. That's Pam Morris in the photo which she also took! Photographer's have all kinds of tricks they can employ to get the desired effect.

I love the photographs created by Pam Morris and not because we have a personal connection in that she is married to my cousin but because she is a remarkable photographer. The Hero image is one of Pam's photos (1920-1930s Blue and White) from her series Seeing History through Colour. And below is Dangerous Work from her Reduce Reuse and Recycle series.

I want to now share with you Pam Morris' thoughts on Truth and Lies and Photography especially for those of you interested in photography.

This blog set out to explore whether our belief and trust in photography has deteriorated in recent times such that we as the general public have little faith in the veracity of published images. Trends show that our instincts are correct in that the level of image manipulation of photos that purport to portray the truth has increased exponentially in recent years. However it is wrong to think that this phenomenon of image modification is a product of the digital age. Investigation into early photography showed us that enhancing, correcting and manipulating images was an accepted practice from the start. What is clear is that a photograph, even in its purest form can never show the world as we as individuals actually see it since each of us views the world in our own unique way depending on our genetic makeup and visual experiences. So what we each think an image of the real world should look like is in fact likely to be different as is the way we perceive a photographic image of that world. Truth is a moving target where it is impossible to benchmark an absolute truth about reality on which to judge a photo of it. Sometimes we correct a photographic image to bring it more into line with the reality that we see, i.e. Fix it to make it more representational of the truth as we know it or other times we manipulate its colour or tone to make it more aesthetically pleasing but still hold to the tenet that it represents reality. Whilst the world is agreed that removing or adding pixels to a raw image is unacceptable if we want to submit an image as representing fact; there seems to be no published guidelines on the extent we can manipulate colour or tone to render the resultant image acceptable or unacceptable as evidence of fact. It seems that given ever increasing the level of unacceptable manipulation being found in submissions for photo journals and scientific journals that the general position of the public not to believe an image until its proven to be unmodified is a valid position to hold.

Pam Morris goes on to say: However advances in digital technology are enabling us to manipulate, distort, and alter reality in ways that were simply impossible twenty years ago. It is impossible to imagine what the technology of tomorrow will make possible. It will become critical that we fully understand the power, limits, and implications of digital technology, which may mean adopting a different attitude and relationship with digital media (Farid)[1].

Pam concludes: if in the future photographs are to be used for their full potential in exploring the boundaries of science, evidence of happenings, in courts of law and true representations of historical events then we need to ensure that forensic technology keeps pace with digital advancements so that it is always possible to identify image manipulation. Photographers need to protect our industry and develop and enforce international standards regarding image verification, validation, certification and Meta data recording. I.e. Such recommendations could include:
*All photo-editing software to comply with auditing standards for logging manipulations and technology that secures the content of this Meta data so all raw images can be verified.

The international photographic community needs a clear set of objective guidelines on what is acceptable and not acceptable regarding image manipulation.

Images can be officially verified and certified to be within acceptable bounds of manipulation.

I have to ask when you see this shot by Pam Morris of Lake Elizabeth in The Otways, Victoria, Australia: Why would anyone want to manipulate reality?


Please visit the website for more stunning photos by Pam Morris.

Reference used in the excerpt from the writings of Pam Morris
1. Farid H Digital Doctoring: can we trust photographs? Hany Farid Dartmouth College Retrieved Mar 11th 2015

Anne Newman

Oil Painter in realistic genre style, predominantly buildings and people. To continue the discussion contact Anne on or phone +61 407 516 522

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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