jonathan pearlman

jonathan pearlman

FINE ART Photography



“I’ll tell you what you want, mate! You want a bloody photographer! Not a creative artist with some imagination.”

“I’ll tell you what I want! I want a last supper with one Christ, twelve disciples, no kangaroos, by Thursday lunch, or you don’t get paid!”

“Bloody Fascist”

“Look! I’m the bloody Pope! I may not know much about art, but I know what I like!”


A recent article in The Guardian asked a familiar, and contentious, question "Is Photography Art?"  I refuse to be drawn into these debates; I have a fast opinion because I am necessarily opinionated. My view is, of course, no less valid than the next person’s. What I despise is the wrath and the fury hurled from high – post a comment yourself and see what happens! I did. Mine didn't really add, or detract, from the discussion; what I posted was an ungracious swipe at a certain member of ‘Magnum’ whose images leave me nothing, if not cold. For my troubles, I got yelled at through the ether: “anyone can paint, not everyone can paint a masterpiece.” Which I thought was a rather odd response to my post – because, if anything, it validated my opinion.

For the record, my post went like this: “Martin Parr – proof that anyone can take a photograph.”

It might, on first appearance, to be a rather egregious attack on a fellow-photographer’s reputation and his art. But there are layers to the post that my interlocutor has missed.

Take, for example Andreas Gursky. Here is a photographer who hit the mother-lode, photographically speaking, and who has done more through the outrageous sale of his image “Rhine Two’ in elevating the photographer to that of artist.

Gursky’s image of the Rhine at autumn is a digital image, digitally enhanced and has been digitally altered – pedestrians, dogs, cyclists and even a factory were removed from the original image. The ‘final’ print (if that were digitally possible) is a massive 140 x 80 inches sold at auction for over $4m.

This is an impossible predicament for photographers; for whilst it’s true that many great images of the past may have been ‘staged’ or enhanced or altered at the development stage, it does not take away their majesty and their influence through the generations. One wants to believe that Capra’s soldier really was hit by bullets. Maybe he was. One wants to believe that Henri Cartier-Bresson waited hours for the cyclist to shoot past his vantage point. I'm sure he did. It doesn't matter.

Does it matter that Robert Doisneau's Parisian couple so eloquently caught kissing was staged?

Robert Capra’s incredible images taken during the D-Day landing at Omaha Beach were purely accidental; the shots were intentional, but the development wasn't  The result of a processing lab mistake has given us a most surreal and disturbing insight to a most horrific event.

What, then, of Gursky? Is he any more unreliable than a painter who paints over or paints away part of a scene so that the story can be told without distractions? Is he cheating in the sense that his landscape doesn't actually exist at all? Is the image really a “metaphor for the modern world?”

Or is it just another ordinary photograph cleverly processed in Photoshop?

So, back to me:
The photograph above was taken about three years ago. It was shot at low light using a Canon G11, processed in Adobe ‘Raw’ and the contrast manipulated in Photoshop. This is, also, a fairly early attempt at using the ‘Alien Skin Exposure 3’ software and is typically naive.

Nothing else was done in Photoshop, save for one minor adjustment. The image was just as I had seen with my eyes. Not staged, not manipulated and with no trickery involved; it is just a piece of flim-flam, a play on illusion if you like. But, is it art?




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