A Contemporary Art Perspective on Digital Photo Manipulation

Traditionally the photographic image implied a record of a single instant in time from a single point of perspective. These limitations warranted the photographer to either assemble a staged shot, or to passively await for the ‘decisive moment’ for the elements to compose within the camera’s view. Digital photo manipulation of images has removed these constraining limitations of traditional photography, to now enable the photographer to take control of both multiple perspectives and the joining together of instances of time.Challenging the single point perspective, Andreas Gursky overcomes the constraint of the single lens through the manipulation of his photographs by the seamless joining of two or more photographs to create his images. Gursky’s photographs do not overtly hint at any such digital photo manipulation. When joining his images or his changing of specific colours, he takes care to alleviate any distraction that may result. As a consequence of these multiple perspective creations, the panoramic scale of Gursky’s work is greatly enhanced. In his 1996 piece titled ‘Atlanta’ the actual seam is unidentifiable, but its position is still identifiable due to the alignments of the two perspectives.Mary Frey in her piece ‘In her Bedroom’ 1997, manipulates the representation of time, to create a fantasy environment of a scene that is familiar in its ordinariness, however at the same time foreign in its impossibility. The image depicts an elderly woman, seated adjacent to a small table assembled with picture frames, resembling a shrine of images to loved ones. The woman’s head is lowered, she covers her eyes with her hand, her fist is clasped and her partially exposed face appears grimaced. The reflection in the mirror tells a differing tale. Shown is a rear view of an elderly man standing between the seated woman and the mirror, appearing to have his hand reaching in front of him, approximating the position of the woman’s shoulder. A ghostly apparition perhaps, attempting to provide consolation to the grieving spouse. The image is powerfully emotive, albeit only a digital photo manipulation.David LaChapelle is a contemporary photographer having evolved his digital photo manipulation of futuristic fashion shoots, exaggerating aspects of celebrity’s profiles creating popular culture arts. He creates his own visual fantasy worlds within each work, erotically charged and wildly imaginative in their surreal settings. His piece titled ‘Pieta with Courtney Love’ 2006, is an intensely blasphemous work depicting Courtney Love in a photo blended interior/exterior landscape, looking angelic while holding the crucified marked body of her deceased husband Kurt Cobain. The perversity of these two characters being set within a pivotal religious setting, along with the symbolism of the various objects within the composition, would be confronting for many with combining of a relgion, politics and art. LaChapelle’s digital photo manipulations of white-trash kitsch celebrity culture, hint at a society that is manifestly media-centric, with an unhealthy appetite for anything that is celebrity regardless of its notoriety or popular culture arts.Unsurprisingly, artists examine every facit of life, utilizing all available resource, materials and mediums to depict their interpretation of the world about them. Digital Photo manipulation, and the creation of random imagery is just not surprising, nor outside the ‘norm’ of our brave new world. Photography has for many decades had to combat the accusation of ‘But is it Art?’, and thus as technology develops at such an astonishing pace, it is the medium at the proverbial ‘coal face’ or cutting edge, at which you would expect to find artists operating within popular culture arts.

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