The image above is a composite of two images (the moon and all the rest) and was taken around 9 a.m. on a blue-skyed day in January – two image manipulations that have created a scene that could have taken place but didn’t . . . at least at that moment. When I pointed this out to my small cadre of photo critics – all friends – some thought it clever and at least one or two good-naturedly called it cheating. Not surprisingly, I was happy with the former reaction and disturbed by the latter.
The more I thought about the mild cry of “foul”, the following struck me:
(1) Any adjustment to the image as it comes out of the camera immediately separates it from the reality that existed at the moment the picture was taken. That includes changes in exposure, white balance, contrast, brightness and clearly in this case the change from color to black and white and darkening the scene to evoke dawn-like light. Interestingly, such changes (other than perhaps the apparent time of day) typically do not elicit cries of protest.
(2) Creating a composite – in this case, adding the moon – seems to be another story. Here one is creating a new reality that encompasses objects that, at the time the picture is taken, did not exist at the same time in the same place. Should that be more offensive? If so, how does that differ than the compositions created by an artist when painting a still-life? Generally, I’ve never been made aware of objection being made to an artist contriving a particular still-life subject matter, for example creating a tableau of fruits and flower with object chosen for their textures or hues. I don’t think there’s a difference UNLESS (and that’s a big “unless”) the image is being presented as a factual representation of what actually existed at the time the shutter was tripped. There is a material and significant difference between creating an image that is intended to evoke a mood, a reflection or memory of feeling versus presenting an image as a record or evidence of a physical reality that didn’t exist or occur.
For me, then, the above image, reflecting the type of melancholy that permeated my heart at the time is an “honest” picture albeit of my mood and perception of the moment. And, when I offer it to be viewed, my intention is to share that mood and not as historical record of the moon appearing in the dawn sky over the harbor at New London on a particular winter’s morning. If you feel differently, have other thoughts, or wish to add your view, please feel free to comment.