What constitutes a photograph? Some people will contend that any digital image is not a photograph by its nature. I think this is inaccurate as the word “photograph” implies that any rendering created from an impression of light will qualify. But how much information is required in that rendering? How representational should it be? How much manipulation can be applied before the image becomes an illustration? The image above is a small area cropped out of a picture taken with my cell-phone. The small rectangle of pixels was up-sampled enough to be printed as large photograph. This has magnified the many artifacts created by the tiny camera. Are these artifacts artifice? The only manipulation was adjustment for levels, contrast and a boost to color saturation.
This picture was taken in the dark. All the lights were out, late at night. Coals in the fireplace were barely visible, glowing a dim red. The exposure was 20 seconds long, taken with an infrared camera. What glows dimly in visible light, is much brighter in the infrared spectrum. The color of the image is called “false color” sort of an artifact of the of the mixing of the infrared light and the small amounts of visible light the camera can still record.
Jimi Hendrix impersonator Ritchie Rodgers poses for pictures at Portland’s Saturday Market most weekends during the warmer months.
Early last year I had one of my older cameras converted to infrared. Sadly it was stolen. Whoever took it probably threw it away thinking it was broken since it only took weird photos. I really miss it as I was always an avid user of the now discontinued Kodak Highspeed Infrared film. I’ll have to get another one soon. The world looks so different when when you photograph the invisible light.
Lately I’ve been shooting more with vintage, large-format cameras. It’s interesting to see how the instrument affects the final image. The photograph above was taken with a 1955 Speed Graphic press camera and an Aero Ektar lens from WWII. This particular equipment combo was popularized by the great photojournalist David Burnett who use the set to photograph the 2004 presidential campaign. When used for a close-up portrait as seen here, the lens has a very shallow depth of field. This requires the subject to remain perfectly still while the camera is be being focused. This creates a stillness not seen with the rapid-fire digital SLR approach that has become my main-stay. I’ll have more to say about how the camera changes the photo in the days to come.