June 2016

Is CGI Finally More Real Than Photography?

Okay, I can just imagine your reaction to this seemingly absurd statement. But if you are willing to pause and analyze your belief system surrounding photography you may be surprised at your thoughts by the end of this article. Photography has been unfairly burdened with the role of truth teller since its inception. The old adage “the camera never lies” was started as a way to persuade people who had never seen a photograph of themselves, that, yes, this was in fact what they looked like. Lines illustrating this point where used in the play The Octoroon written by Dion Boucicault and performed in New York in 1859: Scud: The apparatus [a camera] can't mistake. When I travelled round with this machine, the homely folks used to sing out, "Hillo, mister, this ain't like me!" "Ma'am," says I, "the apparatus can't mistake." The more modern use of the notion arrived later with the meaning that photography shows us that which is to be believed and is irreproachable. Let me pause as this point. It would be incorrect for the reader to think the purpose of this article is a vilification of photography. To be clear, I have been a photographer for 44 years and a professional advertising and editorial photographer since 1977. I adore photography and have always been active with my own personal work as well. I have followed the development of computer-generated images (CGI) for the past decade. Three years ago I became a partner in a company producing this type of work. I speak as one with experience and total respect for the traditions of photography, the hard working professionals, and fine artists who have used photography to inform, tell stories, entertain, and change opinions for more than 170 years. My utmost respect also extends to the people who have advanced computer-generated imaging to what it is today. I am amazed by what we are able to create, thanks to the hard work of both artists and software engineers. The fact that people still assign the belief that photography is reality is a problem for photography. But from its earliest days, photography was...

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