When Does A Photo Stop Being A Photo?

November 26, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

The other day I was doing a search on Flickr to see if I could find some groups to join that I could submit some of my recent high school football photos to. I came across a photo that was really quite an amazing image but there was so much post-processing on it I had to wonder; what did the actual out of camera shot look like? Did it look anything like the image posted on Flickr?

Colonial high school football team by commercial photographer Rich Johnson of Spectacle Photo

 

First off, I’m in NO way criticizing the artist or his work. It really is an amazing image. There was clearly a lot of work put into this image and it certainly made me stop and take notice.

Like I said, though, it did make me wonder when does a photo stop being a photo and become something else? In this age of digital cameras and the power software gives us to manipulate images you can take a photograph and use it as a canvas to create something else entirely. Perhaps this is digital illustration or artistry. What would one call it? I’ve seen some other amazing images that were a mash up of an actual photo and digital illustration. There’s definitely an art and creative skill involved. Are there purists that draw a line between photography and at some point too much manipulation makes the photograph something else. I’m probably in this camp myself but I don’t know where that magic line is. I’m reminded of a quote by Justice Potter Stewart, “But I know it when I see it…”

I’d be interested in what others think. When does a photo stop being a photo? When it stops being a photo what is it?

 


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