Child Development Center, Twentynine Palms, CA
The look of architectural photography has completely changed due to high dynamic range, or HDR, in digital photography. Dynamic range refers to the difference between the darkest and brightest areas in a photograph. High dynamic range is the ability to render tones and detail in all areas of the image. Thus a photograph of a building at sunset will render both the burst of bright color in the sky while retaining all the structural and tonal details of the building and landscape in the foreground. A properly processed HDR image will also retain contrast in the mid tones, without which the image would look flat. This would have been impossible with film without the use of additional lighting to brighten the building in the foreground; the dynamic range of film was limited, especially transparency film. Photographers had to choose the brightness values they wanted to expose for, which were usually the mid tones and the shadows. You would simply let the highlights go. Windows and skies would go white, creating a light, airy look to photographs but sacrificing content that might otherwise have been retained. Essentially, digital imaging now makes it possible to create photographic images that more closely resemble the dynamic range of normal human vision. If overdone, the technique can also result in harsh, otherworldly images. So it's a relief that the novelty of HDR has lost some of it's appeal; the technique is now used more sparingly, with nuanced results.
Pedestrian Bridge, Harbor Drive, San Diego CA
People still ask, though less frequently, if a photograph has been photoshopped. What they really want to know is are they looking at a "real" photograph or something fake. There's a story that Picasso was once taken to task by an acquaintance for painting portraits that didn't look real. Picasso is said to have asked the man if he had a picture of his wife. The man dutifully produced a small photo from his wallet. "Is that what she really looks like?" asked Picasso. "Yes, of course replied the man, feeling flattered." "I didn't know she was two inches tall" mused Picasso. True or not, the story points to the fact that photographs, always presumed to be a factual and faithful reproduction of something real, are just representations. Even in the early days, the photographic image was manipulated in many ways to produce a desired result. Digital photography has not only facilitated this process by letting us change basic values like brightness, and color, we can now alter the actual content of an image. Blemishes can be removed, faces can be made thinner, clouds can be added to skies, faded foliage can be rendered in bright hues. Given a palette of choices with which to modify the world around us we have. Even in photojournalism where the imperative is to produce a factual representation our visual aesthetic offers wide latitude. If Sebastiao Salgado's amazing photographs were simple facsimilies of life they wouldn't be so unique. Edward Weston's classic nudes wouldn't be so iconic. Their vision, together with a mastery of black and white photography, and a unique style produced images that stand apart. Ansel Adams might have called it a "departure from reality."
Diamond Head, Oahu, HI
Now that phones have built-in cameras that are so easy to use it's become routine to take pictures of everything we like, at any time. This is a new phenomenon, a by product of advances in digital and computer technology. Everyone is now a photographer, and the simple image software that comes with phones makes it easier than ever to create better photos. This was once an arcane specialty, requiring a familiarity with cameras, film, shutter speeds, darkrooms, and last but not least, an understanding of visual art. Basically, to be a photographer, you had to understand how cameras and film worked, but you also had to be a visual artist. Digital photography has changed all this, practically overnight. The mechanical and technological process of creating an image is now almost an afterthought. With the availability of phone cameras image making has become completely democratized. The implications are profound. What began, some 160 years ago, as a new way to produce a portrait or depict a landscape is now the universally accepted language by which we communicate and share information. It's the medium by which we tell one another who we are, what we're doing, what we like, where we are, and what we want. The new technology is also redefining all of this. Our very understanding of the world around us is now informed by manipulated images reflecting our own or adopted values. Photography used to be a way to document the world, and our lives. But as photographs increasingly become the way we relate to everything, and the way we stay connected, has this virtual universe enriched our world, or replaced it?
©2014 Pablo Mason
My Sister's Voice was a Notes to Our Sons and Daughters event by Alexis Dixon featuring photographs by Pablo Mason of forty inter-generationally diverse women emphasizing their life's journey and the wisdom they have gained along the way. The photographs were accompanied by a "note" from each person, elucidating a life lesson important enough to be passed on to the next generation, our "sons and daughters."
Among the women featured in the exhibition were members of the International Women of Courage and Women Peace Makers 2014. This exhibition was a fund raising event benefiting the Center for Community Solutions, http://www.ccssd.org/ a local non-profit organization. The exhibition took place on June 6, 2014, at the Broadway Pier in San Diego, CA. The exhibition was attended by over 450 people.
Thanks to Alfred Pagano of Giant Photo for insuring uncompromising quality in the printing of the photographs. Thanks also to Rick Sturdivan of Rick's Custom Framing for contributing to the beautiful presentation of the work.
My Sister’s Voice – Photographer’s Statement
The photographs in “My Sister’s Voice” are an attempt to bring us closer to the women who participated in the project. The idea was to create portraits that would make each narrative more compelling, giving each story a human face that we could relate to.
By eliminating the emotional distractions of color and hue, black and white photography achieves a universal language that is forceful and direct. Reduced to its basic architecture, a black and white image minces no words in evoking a sense of urgency, compassion or joy. Beauty is rendered timeless, pain unforgettable.
These portraits are not crafted to familiarize us with the subjects. They were conceived to make an indelible impression. They are a testament to the courage, the strength, the dreams, and the cries, in the lives of these women.
We often ignore that a single voice can be enough to confront established perceptions and even cultural traditions, but the women portrayed in this project have seized this challenge to effect positive change. These photographs are also a testament to their vision and their spirit, and their individual and combined efforts. It’s my hope that these photographs will help us identify with each person, their quest and their story. The importance of highlighting the work of each of these women, and their struggle, was the inspiration of Alexis Dixon, the originator of the project. Without his confidence, guidance and enthusiasm this could not have happened.
These women did not seek to be recognized for their courage and determination. Some simply strove to overcome tremendous personal challenges. Others raised their voice to improve their lives, and the lives of their families and their communities, often at great personal risk, facing daunting challenges, and usually against fierce opposition. To photograph them was to humanize and personalize their efforts, and help us relate to the personal sacrifices they’ve made to compel changes.
It was an exceptional privilege to be granted the confidence by these women to portray them, and by extension, their lives and their stories. It’s important that we understand their work and the experiences they’ve shared. I hope these photographs will help this process.
Pablo Mason, 2014