Rules Are Good

The legendary David Burnett writes about rules and how technology has changed the way photojournalists have worked over his 40 year career. How digital imaging (man, I hate that phrase) made so many of our old means seem quaint. And how, now, we have all new ethical dilemmas to obsess over.

I’m actually glad the rules exist (such as they do) for my kind of work. It’s not that I don’t have a fanciful notion now and then to blast a picture with the latest software grooviness, and see what it yields. Certainly if you’re working in the realm of commercial or strictly artistic photography, pretty much anything goes. But at times it’s tough to turn that “Honest view of what I see” button on and off. I have often, however, loved quoting Bullwinkle, who was once portrayed in a smock and beret, with a palette of paints and canvas at hand: “I paint what I see…. And THIS is what I see…” camera panning to an absolutely incomprehensible Kandinsky-like bowl of artistic mush. Well, I DO shoot what I see. But it’s what happens to those images afterwards which is changing the world of visual communication as we know it. Credibility is often lost as pictures which were cheated along the way chip away at the essential believability of every image. I guess I am over that, already. I mean, who actually believes what they see anymore?

(Emphasis mine.)

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