Imagining that a photograph that is “straight out of camera” is better than one that has been “manipulated” in post is equivalent to imagining that the words coming straight out of one’s mouth are better than those resulting from careful and thoughtful editing.
While there is an art to extemporaneous expression, there is at least as much art in carefully crafted work. Continuing to refine and perfect the content and its expression is not remotely unethical. The objective is to produce a pure, clear, concise, more powerful and direct expression of the artist’s truth.
This is true of essentially every mode of human expression: painting, sculpture, movie-making, writing, music, and on and on. Even the seemingly extemporaneous expressions (jazz, etc) are the result of long preparation and practice and planning and are ultimately not simply things that happen in the moment.
It is nonsensical to imagine that photography should be the one art that eschews careful refinement and thought and the distillation and perfection of expression that can make it truer and more powerful.
G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
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