10. Pushing the boundaries

Where does the creative process stop? Some will argue that the image created by the camera is sacrosanct and should not be altered in any way. Some will argue that the final vision should be conceived before the process of creation begins. Personally, I don’t like rules. In the previous chapter, I spoke about the photographer’s right to use visual effects to realise his creative vision. It is entirely reasonable, as far as I can see, for the photographer’s vision to evolve as the creative process unfolds and new possibilities emerge.

In the example above, I photographed an elderly woman pushing a walking aid along a street in front of a brick wall. At the time, that was all I saw; but I found the image quite poignant. Later, as I looked at the image and wondered what the woman might have been thinking as she struggled along that street, I imagined that she might have been reflecting on the past, when she was young and fit and beautiful. I remembered another photograph that I had taken over 40 years earlier, of a girl in a bikini posing on the sand and I decided to use it to represent the elderly woman’s thoughts, projected onto the brick wall. The angle of her head suggested that she might be looking at the wall; or in the revised image, looking at herself as she once was.

I could have left the image at that but I felt that more could be done to reinforce the idea of age. I took a texture and applied it to the image; and then..I was satisfied.

What began with a reactive, opportunistic shot of an elderly woman painfully pushing her walking aid along a street, eventually became an elegy on aging and lost youth. Should I have been forced to stop at the original image. I think not.

The creation of this image was clearly a multi-staged process. These layers could not have been captured simultaneously in a single shot. But I don’t think that has any bearing on how the photograph should be judged unless the purpose of the exercise is to assess the photographer’s post-production skills. For most purposes, the image is the image; and how it was conceived and executed are subordinate to the effectiveness of the end result. So, in my opinion, images like these should be judged in the same way as any other image – that is, in answer to the question: Do the visual elements and visual effects used combine to create a coherent message that is free from redundancy or distraction? You be the judge.

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