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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Digital Manipulation And The Flair Of Subtlety

As digital photography struggles for legitimacy in the fine-art world, we examine the role of image manipulation to evoke an emotional response from your audience

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Yet it remains evident that the images of Morrison have been manipulated. This admission of alteration is liberating to the application of her methodology. In this day and age, the curiosity of whether or not an image has been altered can be paralyzing in terms of accepting the image as a whole and being able to see the forest instead of just the digitally suspect trees. With the subtle but evident alterations that Morrison uses, there’s suddenly no question of whether or not the image has been modified, but instead poses the question as to why it was modified. The mood of the image becomes playful, vivid and fluid. Now, rather than merely seeing the new fashion designs as displayed on a mannequin, the images have a flow and ambiance that give new life to the model, her clothing and the feel of movement within the image.
Now, rather than merely seeing the new fashion designs as displayed on a mannequin, the images have a flow and ambiance that give new life to the model, her clothing and
the feel of movement within the image
Of course, there are many ways to create a similar type of ambiance in an image, digital or otherwise, but this is another effective way to do it while also acknowledging the craft of the digital image. The photographs still are constructed using tightly controlled lighting and specific environments with intended outcomes. The mastery of Morrison follows the tradition of other fashion photographers working in the vein of fine art. The difference here is that she’s also demonstrating a whimsical control over her toolbox, and heavily featured in that toolbox is the digital medium itself.

While there still will be occasions when the digital nature of an image will be masked, the presence and use of digital technology shouldn’t be feared and shelved in an attempt to re-create an analog sensibility. Digital image-making should be embraced and used for its new potential. It’s important to recognize the varied tools required to make each type of image and to choose, as an artist, the means most appropriate to a specific vision. Knowing a wide range of tools to choose from allows the digital fine artist to steadily progress toward that vision. Gathering an arsenal of skills, tricks and processes is the first step in realizing the vision of a digital fine artist. The same types of skills are requisite for every art form and support the artist in his or her own quest. Truly understanding your instruments is no different for the digital fine artist, and understanding them includes knowing when and how to use them, and when to leave them alone.

Morrison is one of many digital fine artists working today utilizing the characteristics of digital technology to make her imagery stand out from previous traditions, as well as embrace modern times. She isn’t trying to re-create a sensibility from other mediums, including that of analog photography, but rather trying to push the boundaries and find out what the digital medium has to offer the worlds of fine art and fashion. She understands each element of her trade, from concept and visualization to final image postproduction, and she has applied only the necessary modifications to each of her images to convey her intended message. The result is a set of fashion images full of whimsy and character enhanced by, and embracing, subtle digital manipulation.

Ultimately, like Morrison, those who are willing to explore the affect of digital photography, rather than just the digital effects available, will continue to bring us innovative, expressive imagery that will reinvent the possibilities of the digital image in the world of fine art.

Amanda Quintenz-Fiedler is a freelance writer and photographer based in San Diego, Calif. She received her MFA in Still Photography in 2009 from Brooks Institute and continues to study fine-art theories, methods and practitioners, as well as produce her own fine-art photography. Visit her website at www.amandaquintenz.com. Mallory Morrison has a degree in fine art from UC Santa Cruz and a commercial photography degree from Brooks Institute. She’s an international award-winning photographer who travels often, including shooting fashion in Paris, Milan and New York. She’s based in Los Angeles. See more of her photography by visiting her website, www.mallorymorrison.net.


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