This week I am going to share some of my thoughts on and experiences with one of the more decidedly modern takes on photography, digital compositing. A digital composite is essentially a collage of photographs that are digitally altered to appear as if they were taken as a single image, with the goal in mind of procuring a realistic final product.
My first exposure to compositing as a concept was during this past semester when it was introduced as an exercise in my class on Photoshop; the class from which these two examples came. Although it isn’t a discipline that I have necessarily devoted a great deal of my time to, I immediately found interest in the possibilities that the technique offers, and the far broader level of control that it affords the artist than more traditional darkroom or digital work.
Don’t like the color of the sky? A selection via the color range selector and some tweaking with a hue/saturation layer could quickly and precisely remedy that.
Is the skyline underwhelming? Drag in a few other buildings from separate photos and correct their orientation with the perspective warp tool.
Individuals far more experienced than me can even create pieces that seem more like paintings, or even undoctored photographs. Since becoming a photographer, compositing is easily among the most frustrating things I have been tasked to work on. That being said, when finished, it is also one of the most rewarding. That is not to say, however, that this sort of technique does not carry some implications or questions of its own.
But Is It Photography
But is it photography?
“…But is it photography?”, a question that my instructor would often ask, a frequent composer of digital composites himself, he would often answer himself by saying he wasn’t quite sure, but didn’t think that was such a bad thing. Pieces of this sort do stand on their own fairly well, even securing gallery exhibitions all their own but the question still remains, is it photography? Considering taking photos are a bit of a requirement one might be inclined to think so but when most of the art of a photo is in the camera and the viewfinder and most of the art of a composite is on a computer screen something about that description just doesn’t really feel like it fits.
Composites also bear quite a resemblance to collage in the general principle of their construction, but the imitation of reality isn’t always as much of a priority in collage as in composites so that description doesn’t quite meld either. Perhaps it really is best to say that composites are really in their own neck of the woods, even if they do bear similarity to other forms of digital art. At any rate, it’s difficult to look at the work of artists like Brooke Shaden or Chala Janpraphasakul and not be awestruck.