In pursuit of clarity, redux

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Do you feel the warmth of the afternoon?

Some months ago, I wrote about the idea of clarity in an image: the experience of being able to see through the picture and beyond the facsimile representation to the scene or subject in itself; it’s akin to breaking the fourth wall in cinema, but In the opposite direction. Ironically, the ability for a still photograph to do this is very much related to technology: we need the hardware and technical chops to be able to make it look as though the hardware is unimportant.

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A question of clarity

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Photography as an artistic medium is limited: by and large, the structure of your image is restricted by what exists in reality. Sure, you can alter that representation of reality by changing the light, your composition, your physical position, focal length, perspective, white balance, saturation, or a thousand and one other technical and artistic parameters. But ultimately, it still remains both interpretative and approximate. This is a good and bad thing: it means that assuming there is no post-capture manipulation of content going on, a photograph can be used as a relatively accurate representation of something; there is an assumed level of integrity in a photograph that isn’t present in an impressionist painting, for example. However, photography as a medium isn’t really encouraging of the same interpretative latitude as other media where one starts with a blank canvas/ sheet of paper (forget three dimensional and mixed media for the time being, that’s something which photography will never be able to replicate).

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