Simon Sweeney | Informing contexts: Constructed Realities

Informing contexts: Constructed Realities

February 14, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

How willing are we to disbelief a photograph made today?

There are obvious manipulated images that are quite clearly fake, but doesn’t dismiss them as being artistic and are often displayed in art galleries’. Take photographer John Stezaker’s Images for example. These are clearly manipulated and are disbelieved instantly, nevertheless, you are still drawn into the images and you try to understand the single image rather than multiples. 

Likewise, with folklore, fairytales and fictional images. These are disbelieved by some instantly, but are not meant to be believable but are art.  

Take Nicola Taylor for example and artist in her own right:

And fellow student Jo Sutherst. Since the start of our Masters I’ve been fascinated by her photography work, even though this is not my style, I find it intriguing and understand the process she has had to overcome to get that final picture.

On the other side of the coin, we have believable photographs that are not. Take Rhein II by Andreas Gursky in 1999 for example. One out of the 6 prints, is the most expensive photograph to date at $4.3 million.

We may not disbelief this photograph at first inspection, however this is not how the eyes would have seen this image in the real world. Manipulation through software, such as people walking their dogs and a factory building were removed by the artist.

It becomes embarrassing however when ‘Nixon’ awarded a photographer a prize to then be enlightened it was a fake.

Then take William Eggleston’s images:

A construction mastermind by putting together the various elements to create a final piece, who is renowned for his vivid and poetic mysterious images.

Or Daniel Gustav Cramer. His unique style of low contrast and explicit composition transfixes the viewer to wonder and to question.. whether he makes light look like smoke or an underwater image look like mountains in the clouds, it is truly mesmerising and artistic.


Are these two photographers’ images shown as real though? Eggleston has manipulated the subjects and Cramer unique framing and low contrast are not as the eyes would of seen. 

This is where my practice is confusing.  I can quite easily manipulate a photograph to make it unbelievable:

And this shot I have manipulated the white balance to show the light pollution from Manchester. 

I want my images to be believable and to show their full potential. This is where I must be diplomatic in my behaviour. Too much manipulation to an astrology shot is quickly dismissed. However, the eye can only see so far and cannot see certain colours (take infra-red for example) and then Incorporate a telescope. It doesn’t mean the image wasn’t there, it’s just hard for the viewer to believe, without seeing it for themselves.  

The fact that my images will be in a time lapse, this becomes even more debatable. The questionable speed, ‘the stars, clouds, cars, people, wasn’t moving that fast’. But by implementing a time-lapse also adds credibility to a believable scenario. To insert a subject, I would have to do this to every image therefore it is unlikely. To heavily manipulate in photoshop, adding brush strokes, masks, subjects, etc. is also unlikely due to every image would have to be worked on and when I’m looking at doing over 20,000 images……I don’t think so.

This will not prevent me synchronising an edited single image, whether this is dismissed as a fake, I will leave that to the opinion of my viewers, but is not my intention. 


No comments posted.