Photoshop, Lightroom and similar programs are today’s darkrooms. Just cheaper, more efficient and with a thousand extra features. It’s software that changed the world. With a side effect: more than ever we don’t know if the photographer saw through the viewfinder the same as we see in the picture.
On Instagram I come across streets without dust, papers or cigarette butts every day. All has been meticulously photoshopped away by the photographer. An ultraclean world: photography as the wet dream of Monica Geller. Even Singapore, where sprinkling sand on public roads can result in up to a $10,000 fine, looks like an overturned trash can compared to such photos.
Also numerous are the dramatic skies over cities where the sky looks steel blue all year round. And have you seen the photographer who, wherever he goes, invariably ends up in a fog bank? Or the super-sharp captured gulls popping up everywhere over streets in cities where people have never seen a gull in real life?
Another familiar one: the silhouette that appears as the only human figure in every landscape the photographer finds himself in, far away from the camera. Is it the photographer’s personal assistant? Does the artist encounter one single complete stranger in the middle of nowhere every given day? Or is it a digital extra who lives on the computer?
Much on Instagram is fake. Much in today’s photography is fake. Quite often it’s obvious, even more often you’re not sure.
I rarely find a photographer who generously admits in the description that the image is the result of a few hours of polishing, deleting and adding elements. Despite all the brilliant work. Apparently it’s something to be deeply ashamed of.
Which leaves the question: why do people do this?
*** For the record: the photo above is a reflection image, not the result of trickery in post-processing ***