Fundamental Changes in Reality

Anyone who is both very familiar with Center City Philadelphia and very observant might take a look at this shot, taken in JFK Plaza/Love Park, and get an itchy sense that something is amiss. Technically, they would not be wrong.

I saw a blog yesterday talking about the “myth of the unmanipulated image“; to wit, the author points out that there is no such thing as an image that has not been manipulated, because even the simple act of shooting a photograph subjects the light we see around us to various software and hardware foibles that are simply part of the process, and always have been. I’ve written about this before.

Of course, these topics always stir up heated discussion about photo manipulation, or what some would call editing. And some would call “Making your shot look better.” And some would call “cheating.” The debate always come down to this: there is a difference between raw documentation of a scene, and artistic interpretation of light, shadow and form. Levels adjustments and color correction have their place in all digital photography, even the strictest of documentary journalism. The rest is much more a matter of taste and intent.

So what to make of this image? Those who know Philly well might be able to tell that it is flipped horizontally; “Love” should be spelled backwards, and the Ritz hotel should be on the other side. For the purposes of this picture, does it matter? I like the images because of the light; partially the gauziness of the mid-morning haze that was hanging about today, and partially for the way the light is reflecting off the statue’s base and interior surfaces. Plus, City Hall and the Love statue are Center City iconography at the most concrete, obvious laziest.

I thought the scene was improved by flopping it. There is something “better” to me about having Love spelled the right way, and again, recording the arrangement of buildings was not my purpose.

By the way, this is taken with my other camera that I freaking love, the D40 with the Nikon 35mm f1.8 lens. The D40 isn’t the greatest for indoor photography because it gets really really noisy at ISO 800 and above, but as a walk-around, it is absolutely brilliant. I’m sure D3100 owners love their cameras, too, but I sure was sad the day the D40 was discontinued.