Digital Media: Play

For the Play, I wanted to work within digital manipulation. I wanted to use digital software to show how this paradigm shift has effected how we trust the photograph. Fred Ritchin is a writer and editor who questions digital photography, and believes it to be a completely different medium to photography made with film.


‘While digital media are considerably more efficient and cheaper, easier to master and distribute, in their near omnipotence they may lack a sufficient singularity as well as enough subtlety to engage viewers deeply, or even provoke their sustained attention’

Bending the Frame, Fred Ritchin, page 47

With so much information out there in the digital age, it is difficult for photographers to get their work seen and appreciated. Kenneth Goldsmith’s project ‘Printing the Internet’ shows how much information there is out there making it almost impossible to understand. Similarly Dutch artist Eric Kessels created an installation of all the photographs that were uploaded to Flickr in a 24hour timeframe, the shear size and multitude expresses how difficult it is be professional in a world of so many amateur photographers. (


Fred Ritchin doesn’t trust photography and particularly targets the modern photo journalist in his book ‘Bending the Frame’. He highlights that the citizen journalist can be made more credible with the addition of metaphotographers; ‘capable of sorting through some of the billions of images now available, adding their own, and contextualising all of them so that they become more useful, more complex, and more visible’ (Bending the Frame, Fred Ritchin, page 6).

Does the photographer care more about the impact of the story or the lives of those portrayed. Photographer Kevin Carter photographed a child in Sudan curled up on her search for food and water as a vulture is caught by the camera eyeing her up as food. Carter was told that it was his job to photograph and not help, that he might get a disease if he touched the people. The reception to photograph was mixed, but the audience was many. The critic of his photograph lead to Carter committing suicide a year after the photograph was taken. The question now is; has photography now become so easy that we can now photograph something as an observer and loose our humanity in the process.


All of the above has lead to popular opinion that the photograph is not to be trusted as much.

Photographer Paul M Smith’s series ‘Mr Smith’ uses the concept of truth to create a series of digitally manipulated photographs. Smith photographs himself against a black background and gets a post production company to make his face look like the faces of notable celebrities. Using software they edited his face in a 5day process, to make it look like Elton John, David Beckham etc. The process shows us how digital media can be used to create something that we believe to be a truth, but instead is a manipulation.

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In contrast, Joan Fontcuberta challenges authorship and what we believe to be true in photography and exhibition spaces. His series Fauna is a set of photographs, installations and drawings of fictional animals. The installations were stuffed animals, which made them seem more credible.

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His style isn’t digital manipulation, but the idea of creating truth out of fiction is interesting. It feels like it is a relevant conversation to have in the digital age; showing now to believe everything and consider everything authored and credible.

‘Even in the knowledge of that inevitable human intervention, photography’s manifestations were still greeted with a widespread need to believe; with all but universal credulity, no doubt due to the fateful circumstances of its particular technoscientific genealogy’

Joan Fontcuberta, Pandora’s Camera, page 8

In the introduction of his book, Fontcuberta shows how we are familiar that the photographer does lie, but we still look at the images and believe some of the fiction.

Just looking on pinterest you can see the amount of people using digital manipulation and compositing in their photography. Their projects are play on the idea of dreams and fantasies; but aren’t trying to trick us like Smith’s project, their staged nature tells us its fake, but they seduce us into their world.

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Through my photography intend to take famous photographs of recognisable faces, and manipulate them into faces that you don’t recognise at all. I intend to do a reverse of Smith’s project and use trickery to change what we would otherwise instantly recognise. I intend to also trick the viewer into believing that it wasn’t even manipulation that creates these faces, I want to create a fantasy for the viewer and create a story that makes the photographs loose context and become a product of the digital software, an original photograph that questions authorship and digital truth.


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