I’ve been thinking a lot about altered images lately, especially how altered images and experimental photography (sort of) go hand-in-hand. (Altered images are things like distressing, transfers, hand coloring, acrylic enhancement, and such.)
I’ve always considered myself, first and foremost, an experimental photographer. Sure, I have a passion for art photography (that’s really what I’m doing) but, deep down, at my core, I love to play around with things. I’m the type of photographer who likes to throw a monkey wrench into the pot, just to explore all that is different, to sort of put my own stamp on reality. That’s fine, I mean, the world needs people who break all the rules (especially now. This is, in fact, a really good time to have some rule-breaking and experimentation going on) but the thought of experimentation got me thinking. Just how do experimental photography and altered images differ? How are they the same?
When I think about altered images, I think of things like distressing, transfers, hand coloring, acrylic enhancement, and all of that. They are techniques. When I think of experimental photography, I think it has, as a basis, the desire to try new things. Sure, the process is part of it, maybe the process defines it, but it’s that passion for experimentation that keeps it going, and is really what it’s all about. One is grounded in the technique, while the other the mindset. Or, at least, that’s my working theory (for now, anyway.)
I guess that somebody could have a passion for altered images but still be sort of “traditional,” but I really don’t know about that. This one has me, shall we say, a bit stumped.
This image was taken along the high road to Taos. It’s an image made using a digital infrared converted camera with a lensbaby for a lens. Is it altered? I’d have to say a bit. I mean, the world does not usually provide us with pink trees. Is it experimental? Maybe so. I mean, you could say I’m working in “traditional” digital infrared techniques, if such things were to exist. Then again, maybe I’m just over thinking it (as usual) and I really need to just get out there and admit I like to play.
I’d be curious to share in your observations about this. It’s a subject I will have to revisit at some point but, for now, I shall be happy just enjoying my perky pink trees.
Until next time…
It seems the distinction between the two would be hard to narrow down…and that they overlap. Some altered images can be created through exploratory manipulations where the end-product is not known…”I wonder what would happen if I….?” Some altered images may not be experimental at all…the end product is known…”Let’s photoshop Cindy Crawford’s thighs and trim them down..give her a more golden tan, and blur the wrinkles around the eyes.” I like altering images, but if it gets where I already know the end result, it gets less interesting to me. Anyway, that’s my take on it.
@Mythos, I think you’re right about that. I guess I never thought about altered images in that way before. To me, they’ve always been sort of artistic, not actually trying to craft reality (like making thinner thighs or smoothing wrinkles) but more like applying texture, creating a dreamscape, that sort of a thing.
In that case, there wouldn’t be much difference between the altered and the experimental, but that is ignoring the bland (and the obvious.)