Photography, Vision and Ethics

Massaguaçu beach, waves and storm clouds. Caraguatatuba, São Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, Jan. 07, 2007.

What is more real: a picture that doesn’t communicate, does not tell the story, or a carefully thought shot, that clearly conveys what you saw or felt in a given moment?

Where is the thin line that separates a worked shot from faking a whole scene?

Photography that communicates visions, feelings and the vivid experience of the world around us is what I believe in. My ethical commitment is showing people a universe that is as real as the world out there to be seen.

This doesn’t mean I won’t use artificial lighting and other resources, or even direct a scene to get “the” image. But I do mean I will not show you a world that doesn’t exist.

Photography, in my opinion, may be better defined as a vision – a portion of reality a photographer deliberately chooses to depict. It is by no means “reality,” but it may very well represent it, with varying degrees of accuracy.

If you pick up a camera and point it to the scene you have just “seen”, the raw result may be quite frustrating: The image may hardly convey the “picture you saw”. As humans, we interpret reality as we look at it, while our cameras do not.

This is one of the reasons I consider photography an art form, as well as a craft-art. Creating an image, with its full expression, may require technique and equipment. Sometimes it can be simple and quite straightforward, but consistent, high-quality photography work requires vision and determination.

Through composing, including and excluding things from the viewfinder, using equipment, techniques, and even directing a scene at times, we can instill into a picture the image our bare eyes, brain and heart can so easily perceive but our cameras cannot capture at will.

Spontaneity can also go a long way when communicating visually, but there are times when it is nearly impossible to depict a scene spontaneously. In both cases, however, a photographer’s strong vision has to be present.

Considering all this, what would you say is more real: A bad picture that doesn’t communicate or tells the story, or a carefully thought out shot that delivers the message? I believe it’s the later.

On the other hand, how do we tell where the threshold stands between a well-crafted, strong image, and faking the whole scene? This cannot be defined with precision, due to the variations in perspective, subjectivity, and the wide range of scenes and opinions.

The fine line between creative vision and “faking”, in my understanding, is actually quite clear in the photographer’s mind and heart. Within ourselves, we know when we are faking a scene, no matter how different our concepts, techniques and degrees of tolerance may be.

But what if someone has this creative vision they want to share – a vision that is real and beautiful, not fake, and this individual sees what most people don’t? And what if others start saying these are manicured images…

The digital era has come, complicating these matters even more. After the first boom and speedy growth of this era, people began being more and more deceived by digitally-manipulated images. The credibility photography used to have seems to have reached its lowest level.

For some, like myself, the situation has reached the extreme – of people asking or even taking for granted that the colours or things they were seeing in my images had been “filtered” or “Photoshop made”.

At first, I felt very uneasy with digital. Even about basic digital editing that used the very same creative tools available to photographers since the invention of the craft. Dealing with contrast, saturation, dodging and burning felt uncomfortable, as if I was “manipulating” the truth. People would inadvertently tag that as “digital and not real”. Even the first high-end, superior-quality digital colour prints were received with resistance and scepticism amongst fine art buyers and admirers of the craft. But eventually, digital prints slowly began to break through.

After some time embracing a professional inevitability of “going digital”, following the technological evolution, I realised that even with the myriad of changes photography was going through, digitalization hadn’t changed its essential nature at all. Apart from techniques, the only thing that changed was society’s idea of it that became somewhat “distorted”.

Good photography is still what it is. And fake remains what it is: fake.

What I call creative vision lies at the very heart of good photography. If we are willing to reclaim photography’s credibility, maybe all we have to do is to continue being creative and ethical: Maybe we just have to say it.

The colours, tones and situations seen on this website, represent portraits of real world scenes. They are not “filtered or photoshop made”. Creativity and technique are used to better express what we see, and the digital road has simply made a few things easier.

I also strongly encourage people to bring their perceptions and emotions to life, using the same techniques and apparatus I use. They are basically enhanced versions of what has been used by photographers from the early invention of the craft. The difference now is that we have added more options and control.

Darkrooms of today can be better called “digital lightrooms”, since our “after the fact” work is mainly done in our computers. But, from a standpoint of integrity and optimism, things are very much the same, or, may we say, they are better.

May you feel very welcome visiting this digital-era website, where we try to depict this “unfathomable” world!