09. Blurring the issue

Alone with my thoughts, walking

The use of visual effects is a vexed issue in photography circles, rising at times to the fervency of a religious war. Everyone, of course, is entitled to their own opinion on the subject. Mine is that a photographer should be free to use any means at his disposal to realise his artistic vision. Having said that, however, I aim to create photographs in which the visual elements and visual effects combine to form a coherent message. Adding visual effects to give an image the “wow” factor, or to “save” a mediocre image, is tempting; but I would always know that I had concocted a Charlatan. I wouldn’t be entirely happy with the result.

The image I’ve selected to illustrate the point uses blur as a visual effect. The blur effect was created in-camera by adjusting the focus. But why?

The idea I was trying to represent was that of someone walking, so lost in thought that the real world around him had been reduced to a distant haze. Is the meaning clear (without the explanation)? Probably not. On reflection, there might have been better ways to illustrate this concept. But I have included it in this discussion because it is a simple image, in which the visual effect (the blur) was the sole method used to create the message.

One test that I find helps me decide whether a visual effect contributes to the meaning of the image is to imagine the image without it. If the removal of the effect dilutes the meaning, then I find its use justified.

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