Truth be told?

BlogHer Original Post

Not everybody trusts paintings but people believe photographs. -Ansel Adams

IT has arrived. The box of Adobe Photoshop Elements 5.0 sits on my desk, unopened, willfully staring me down. “C’mon, you know you want to,” it says, seducing me with its fancy tricks and color options. I feel like a small town boy who has wandered in to the red light district on his first trip to The City.

Though P-Shop and I were once as thick as thieves, it was when I was the editor of a weekly dining guide. The relationship was strictly professional. These days, we are less familiar and I approach our re-acquaintance with some trepidation. I have very mixed feelings about altering photos, not so much because I am a snotty purist (though I am) but because I don’t do well with temptation in general. If there is too much food, I’ll eat it; too much booze, I’ll drink it and the Wrong Kind of Man, I’ll date him. I’m building stronger boundaries these days but it is slow-going.

Sure, the packaging text sounds harmless enough, “Bring out the best in your photos” and “Combine photos and video in entertaining new ways” but I know what they are really saying: “Your photography sucks. You need help.” I take offense to this.

Meanwhile, I can’t help but note the general trend in digital photography to deny reality, even at the outset. As you may have heard, some cameras now come with features that make folks look thinner, add a vacation tan or decrease facial lines, while other in-camera tools enrich scenery.

Sure, it may make you feel better about your photography skills or how you look in photos – hell, I only started taking pictures to avoid being in them – but this sort of self-delusion seems dangerously sad. Not to mention what it does to the art of photography going forward – ‘tools’ such as these could induce questioning about a photographs accuracy. (And while we are at it, why people still cheer Barry Bonds, I have no idea.)

Still, I tell myself, “Self, what is your problem? ‘Burning’ and dodging’ and ‘airbrushing’ have been around forever. What is the difference? You are a curmudgeon; you belong on a porch, in a rocking chair with a shotgun and the world’s slowest dial-up connection.” This is right about the time I tell Self to shut the hell up.

Still, Self has a point. I will probably crack open P-Shop this weekend, say hello, shuffle my feet nervously and ask if it remembers me. I’ll try to hold firmly on to my integrity but should I come across the “cellulite eraser” button, I’m totally selling out.


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