Photo of a water droplet splashing down to illustrate a photography purist

What’s a Photography Purist and Are You One of Them?

Is There Such A Thing As A Photography Purist?

Over on the Chase Jarvis Blog there is discussion about what a photography purist is. Is it cheating to use Photoshop or similar post-production techniques? This discussion has been around in some form or other since I started shooting in the early 80’s. Back then it was colour film vs black and white film or slide vs Polaroid or the use of filters. Check out the Richard Avedon guide print and then the discussion.

Here are my thoughts on being a photography purist

At the Ansel Adams museum in Jackson Wyoming they have a large, roughly 3′ x 4′, print that Ansel marked up with directions for his printer. In the film photography days I converted a slide to a print then marked the print with directions for my printer. The printer then made beautiful cibachromes. The printer hand cut masks for each of the dodge and burn areas and kept them on file for 1 year, after that I had to pay storage fees on the masks.

At the time I was considered a Purist because I didn’t use coloured filters. However, during the printing I manipulated the highlights and shadows the camera had captured. As a purist it was permissible to use 1a and polarizing filers just not coloured filters. At the time I also refused to use chalk when climbing, wouldn’t climb an artificial wall, and if I fell on a route I went all the way to the bottom before trying again – these days I hang on the rope while I chalk up at the gym. 

Thankfully, for the past 10 years all of my masks are digital and are stored on hard drives and backed up on servers.

All images and text Copyright 2009 Brett Gilmour

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