Posted in Computer Graphics, Photographs, Rants

Rendered Senseless (a bit of a rant)

Funny how quickly things change… a couple of days ago the PC was rendering Apophysis fractals, but tonight it’s rendering a 3D scene in Bryce. Life would be very dull if there was only one thing to do. I wouldn’t have thought of it but there’s a minor contest for science fiction images. My bent is much more towards fantasy, but I came across a folder of unused 3D scenes which were quite promising. Maybe, with a little work, they would fit.

Looking at the other entries, it hasn’t a snowball’s chance… but it’s literally the taking part that counts; lots of fun and new ideas.

I didn’t come here to bore everyone senseless (oh, well maybe I did, but not deliberately). I was thinking about how people make certain decisions that X is OK but Y is not… for instance, traditional photography versus digital photography. All kinds of photography versus manipulation or ‘tweaking’. Those are very broad examples; the individual permutations of biases and prejudices are endless. “I despise the brushed metal effect,” is one phrase I came across a while ago. Nobody bothered to reply. What he really meant that he thought it was overused by uncool people. On a Come Dine with Me show, someone said “you used one of those two-handled things to open the wine. The RIGHT way to open wine is…” and my mother and I looked at each other.

X is cool, the right kind, the right way, used by the right people. Y is not.

These biases start young. I was rambling round one of the arty sites and came across a conversation where someone was required to describe the process of photomanipulation. Despite the friendly reply from the photomanipulator, the enquirer dismissed it as ‘simply cutting and pasting the images of other users’. That’s not necessarily true; photomanipulators aren’t barred from using their own images. And if they just cut and pasted things, they would probably not look good… there is much more to it than that.

If you think about painting a picture (traditional media), you might have a still life specially set up in the studio (various items taken out of their own environments and placed together in an attractive way). If you think about photography, there are portraits of people perched against backgrounds, graduates wearing cheesy grins and clutching false rolled-up certificates (slightly battered round the edges), models wearing evening gear and make-up. When you took a photo of wild nature on holiday, you waited for a break in the crowds of other tourists and angled the shot to avoid the telephone pole and picnic signs. Then, people enjoy movies and fiction, but they’ve never been real.

I’m referring to the expectation that photos etc are worth nothing if they are not a real, true representation of the subject. If the sunset is peachy pink and there’s a boat on the water, it should remain peachy pink with a boat on the water. I don’t understand that, as there’s nothing 100 percent natural or ‘true’ about any of it. That same stretch of sky could be glorious blue and gold tomorrow. What we see out of our own eyes or perceive with our own minds is never the full, eternal truth; still less committing it to a piece of paper and saying “this is last night’s sunset.” It’s not a sunset… it’s a piece of paper.

There’s nothing ‘true’ about painting, photography, sculpture, drawing…. none of it.

As for the ‘using other people’s stuff’ thing, well… provided you make a good image and credit the original photographers / artists (who gave permission in the first place), or avoid all of that and use your own stock anyway, then I don’t see a problem. It’s still work: searching out the images you want; using tools, skills, the mind’s eye… trying to achieve a particular result. Sometimes the ‘cheat’ is much harder to pull off than the real thing.

In the conversation I mentioned, the photomanipulator asked if the other person would like to try that genre. No, said the other person – she would never do it… she preferred to stick with the usual kind of art.

I went to see who this philistine was, and what sort of art she went for, and I didn’t find much there to support. It was all one kind of thing (not terribly adventurous) and not particularly well done. But before I got too sneery in the privacy of my own room, I checked her profile… and she was only 14.

Ah. She’s got time yet. I’m sure I was dismissive of things (and stuck in an artistic rut) when I was 14, but in time I learned life is never black and white. Rather to my dismay. Then again, what would art be if we didn’t have other shades to play with?



I live in the UK with two cats -- Samson and Delilah.

5 thoughts on “Rendered Senseless (a bit of a rant)

  1. I so enjoyed this. I find that “art” or what is “right” is that which one can FEEL, in addition to see. Chick, working on her header art for others, will frequently ask me my opinion (I’m FLATTERED) as to color, size, position, cheese factor, because she gets so close to what she is working on, she is in love with the pixels and needs my blurred, nearsighted glance from across the room to spot the piece that doesn’t make me feel.

    If you have to stand 2 inches to the right to get the right composition or reflection of light, does it matter if you are taking it with an slr or a digital? Making faithful representation of an actual or creating that hit to the heart a stroke at a time? I think not.

    Fortunately we are all different, drawn to different things, so those who are our artists will be different for each of us.

    I have LOVED what you have shared of your art. And I love the thoughtful heart you bring to it.


  2. Thank you, Shu, I appreciate that a lot. 🙂

    There was a certain amount of built-up frustration spilling out there. It’s not that anybody has a real go at anybody else in the art world in general (that I’ve seen), it’s just snide comment after comment. (Not to me in particular; I read stray conversations, discussion boards and feedback to other people). It gets to the point where you want to have your say back.

    I often ask my mother to cast her eye over my work to see what she thinks… she’s a hard person to please, but it helps! She has suggested small changes which saved a picture or two.

  3. I’ve noticed a lot of snobbery in the traditional vs digital art debate. It’s a shame it has to be like that (for some people) because artists in both mediums can learn a lot from each other. And of course, a lot of people work in both mediums.

  4. I run across this a lot, and get flack for liking to take pictures I already have or scanned in and tweak them. To me that is the fun of digital photography…to alter and enhance to rather neat effects at times.
    To be fair, digital photography can cover a multitude of sins, so it is handy, but often, people put digital photos as “less” than real ones, which baffles me. Growing up, the father of a friend of mine was a photographer and he liked to paint and enhance his photos and everyone said he was “brilliant” at it (he was) for doing it all in the darkroom or with an airbrush. Somehow doing it digitally is less of an art form for some reason. Sure it can be a bit easier, but I have seeen what people can do to enhance photos and I really think it looks nice most of the time.
    There’s always photos I like or don’t like, but I think it’s silly to say “oh I don’t like *that* in a photo” simply because it’s been altered digitally…because sometimes if it’s done right, you don’t even see some of the touch ups…and often it can fix glaring problems with a photo.
    In the end it should be if the final image is nice…it’s like styles of art I think. There’s things I just don’t like…but it doesn’t make them less of an art form. It just means I wouldn’t have it on my wall is all 🙂

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