This essay discusses the brouhaha over a print created by Peter Lik. First published on http://fstoppers.com, multiple sites catering to photographers have picked up the story. I chose the http://petapixel.com version as the basis for my comments: Peter Lik Called Out by Photographers Over ‘Faked’ Moon Photo.
In summary, the writers take umbrage with Mr Lik’s photograph Moonlit Dreams, which they speculate must be a collage or composite. The interesting part of that assertion is the fact that Mr Lik has never specifically disclosed how he created the photograph. In fact, the original author in the Fstoppers article admits as much (my emphasis):
Peter Lik has become extremely wealthy selling prints that his sale team' swear are ‘real’.
As we all know, each photographer (and the general public) has their own view on how much Photoshop is too much, and at a certain point, we can easily cross that line.
Although we haven’t spoken with anyone working for Lik about this particular image, we imagine they will say that this too is a single, unaltered frame. So the question then becomes, how far is too far?”
The articles then proceed to pixel-peep direct the photograph to proveit cannot be a single exposure. In fact in another article published on Fstoppers, the author compares the Moonlit Dreams photograph with another Lik photo called Bella Luna. The author goes to great lengths “proving” that the moon in the two photos is the same, ergo Moonlit Dreams must be a collage/composite.
So, the “beef” seems to be 1. Lik makes a lot of money selling “real” photographs/prints, and 2. At least one of those photos/prints is a collage/composite.
Finally, according to the Petapixel article, Moonlit Dreams is selling very well; it seems none of the buyers care much about whether or not the moon has been composited into the photo. In fact, the only people ‘upset’ about this seem to be other photographers assuming Lik might be misrepresenting how he arrived at the photograph… Or could it just be they are resenting Lik for being very successful at marketing himself and his photography?
In my landscape and fine art print business, I would say each and every photo is also “real,” while none of the final prints looks like they did in-camera. Virtually every last one of my prints has been altered to represent the scene how I saw it in my mind’s eye and to make it evoke the feelings I had being there, capturing the scene, not the way the camera sensor recorded it as ‘objective reality.’
Yes, I have added a moon to some prints, or I selectively enlarged the moon in a photo; I may have ‘painted in’ areas that simply did not exist in the objective reality captured by the camera, e.g. after collaging photos together, or stretching/skewing a photo to create a format that speaks to me more. Like I write in my Personal Style Guarantee (and in greater detail in my Artist Statement),
I guarantee that my work is done according to my personal style and shows the scenes I photographed in a way that is different from what other people looking at these same scenes would see.
To this end I use a variety of techniques, including the creation of a specific color palette for each photograph, the removal or addition of elements in the image, changing the shape of some elements, cropping or reformatting the original photograph, enhancing, emphasizing or de-emphasizing certain aspects of the subject, its contrast, or details. If the photograph you purchase from me shows the landscape in exactly the same way as you saw it in person, I will refund your money.
Quite honestly, I don’t believe there is any obligation on Mr Lik’s part to disclose how he creates his art - in fact, I don’t think any artist is obligated to disclose how they do. And, speaking of art buyers, I have yet to meet one who cares about exactly how a piece of photographic art has been created - they care about whether or not it appeals to them, and how much is costs, no more, no less. Maybe if those who are so “fakely” outraged about this spent more time perfecting their personal style, creating and marketing their own art, and less time dissecting other photographers’ (and calling a gorgeous piece “fake,”) they might be more successful selling their own… Just a thought.