I was on my way into the Opera Nova during the 2015 CamerImage Festival in Bydgoszcz when a random film student stopped me in my tracks.  Wild eyed and lightly spitting on himself, I had no idea why he was so wound up.  After toweling off with the sleeve of his cardigan, his speech became intelligible.  Which is not to say he made any sense.  He was convinced that manipulating images in post constituted a form of cheating.  All I could think was, “Man, did this guy miss the boat.”

            Audiences don’t care about the methods or mechanics that deliver what they’re watching.  What matters to them – and what should matter to cinematographers the most – is the level of emotional\narrative content those images convey.

            Still photographers understood this long before the DI suite broadened our creativity.  Over the decades there have been so many examples of darkroom craftiness and trickery that it would be unfair to site one in particular.  But this doesn’t mean the methods aren’t permissible.  Note the observation of Jeanne Shrimpton – the world’s first true supermodel – regarding the legendary photographer Richard Avedon.

            “All of us who worked for him knew he would give them a different body if theirs was not up to his exacting standards.  I have seen my head on someone else’s body.  He had photographed me with a teddy bear, but when I saw the advertisement, the hands holding the teddy were not mine.  They were much better hands.”

            Much better hands…  I don’t suppose such a simple, unpretentious reaction would’ve satisfied that kid back in Poland.  But if he had only looked a little deeper, I think he would’ve found what he was after.  Tools and technologies only matter as they’re filtered through the eyes and soul of an artist.

            If anyone can interpret that as cheating, well, maybe it’s time for them to pursue something else.



  1. Even in the days of film and photochemical post, we didn’t project the camera negative to the audience. There was always a step between the original and the display version which involved color-correction and other manipulation.

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