Its 1998 and Im 14 years old, my eyes locked onto the screen of my first PC. Perched attentively at the desk, I use the mouse to paint a lizard creature in Paint Shop Pro, my brow furrowed in deliberation. I am in my element.
A family friend enters the room to say hello, clutching a handful of software CDs for me to check out on my new computer. Being naive and technology hungry, I was often eager to load up my computer with superfluous software so I jumped onto the stack of discs to see what could be gleaned. I immediately halted my rummage when I struck an Adobe Photoshop CD definitely worth a look I thought, recalling Id heard some good stuff about this program. After installation, the family friend gave a very brief overview of the concept of layers, and then left me to my own devices. Holy smokes! This was the program of doom, choc laden with a smorgasbord of interesting features and parameters that would take me a hundred years to fully understand. Normal people (especially a working class kid in a housing block) shouldnt be able to have this much editorial clout, I thought. This was the stuff of design studios; I never knew that this level of creative power was now afforded to the home user. Sleepless nights ensued. I was hooked.
The great thing about home computing is that we live in a time when a fair amount of the worlds technology can be accessed by everyday people using a PC or laptop. Adobe Photoshop is one of the great democratising tools, allowing those with the patience, creativity and determination to develop their skill-set and create work which can rival that of industry professionals. A lack of a studio is no longer a hurdle in achieving great results success can now be achieved with minimal equipment and a desire to learn and progress. This is one of the great things about Photoshop, everybody can have a go and if the will takes you, you can develop your skills at a phenomenal rate.
The 21st century is an exciting time to be a creative, were fortunate to have a multitude of avenues available for digital creative pursuits, alongside the more traditional means of creating artwork. To be a Photo Manipulator is the ultimate in artistic expression you can appropriate sketches, photographic elements, 3D, natural textures, absolutely anything to create original compositions. Of all the output produced in Photoshop, it is often the Photo Manipulations that are the big crowd pleasers, proving the pursuit to be an exciting new art form finding its place in the world. I would argue that Photo Manipulation takes the best from all disciplines, in particular the fantastic nature of fine art coupled with the hyper-reality of photography. In an era of cut, paste, sampling and remixing the Photo Manipulation is the ultimate postmodern medium.
Being a practitioner of this bold new medium is innovative territory, as many concepts and techniques are yet to be discovered. Each day artists are utilising the software in new ways and developing styles previously unseen, re-imagining prior movements in digitised form as well as bringing new aesthetics to the fore. As a new medium, Photo Manipulation is yet to have its day of glory waiting for its Banksy equivalent to breach the stuffy fortress of the high-art world.
A common misconception held is that merely owning the relevant hardware and software is all thats required for creating high quality visual works, but any sensible person would know that this is far from the truth. Photo Manipulation, much like natural media, is a time consuming process. High quality manipulations are often meticulously crafted, requiring a certain level of dedication and patience to complete. This isnt an attempt to thwart the dreams of new practitioners, merely reiterating the point that the software doesnt do the work for you</em> something worth noting in the age of instant gratification. A positive aspect of working in Photoshop however is that the learning curve is more accommodating than other art forms; and with some initial leg work pleasing results can be achieved within a fair amount of time.
Getting into the habit of having an ethical working practice during the early stage is definitely a positive step to make, and in turn adds weight to your level of professionalism. Retouching and manipulating photographs entails a certain amount of responsibility when working with resources created by others, and there are a few points that should be considered by everyone when creating photo manipulations. As a matter of decency and mutual respect it is advisable to only use works which have been offered as stock images, be it through dedicated stock imagery websites (free or premium), Deviant Art stock gallery or one of the many texture sites online. The usage rules for photographs on the different sites vary, so ensure that you use the imagery within the parameters stated on the stock instructions. On Deviant Art, for instance, many stock photographers often state that they require a credit and link to their profile within the finished works description however this is not universal, the terms for each individual often differs. There are times that the rules may be bent a little however, as long as it is not flagrant disrespect toward the property of another person (often in cases when a small part of a complex manipulation is obtained from a search engine). This sentiment may not be shared by some of my peers, but I believe that as an artist there should be some room for flexibility.
The requirements above may seem long winded and slightly draconian to the new practitioner, but it is the decent thing to do for those providing the resources which supports your craft. If you create or shoot your own resources, then more power to you!
The great thing about being a Photo Manipulator is that it is still a relatively fresh field of artistic expression, and the true pioneers are yet to emerge. The Dadaists smashed boundaries with their cut and paste excess and I believe that the Photo Manipulators can permeate art scene with works imposing a unique message and method of delivery. Social networking and interconnectivity allows us to collaborate and inspire as a hive mind so these are interesting times to be a practicing creative, and I look forward to what direction the medium takes.
Thanks for reading! Share in your journal if you enjoyed this post. Much respect. Conzz