Like most photographers, I record what I see and interact with. I photograph aspects of my day-to-day life, I photograph during my travels and I seek out specific things to photograph. My work is more interpretive than documentary. I photograph to help me see and understand.
Photography has been an important part of my life. I started at a very early age, with the classic story of being given a snapshot camera as a child to play with. I was hooked. I started learning how to work in the darkroom as an early teenager. I photographed for my high school paper and yearbook and worked part time in a local camera store. I was planning on attending photo-school after graduation.
Then reality hit. I became acquainted with several with working photographers and found that they spent much more time on running the business than on photographing. In reflection, of course, this had to be so; photography was how a living was earned. I, unfortunately, had little interest or aptitude in business. Thoughts of photo school left, replaced by a more standard college education which eventually lead to a decades long medical career. Photography remained and is still an important part of my life, pursued as an amateur, done simply for the love if it.
Although my earlier pictures were made with film, for the past 10 years I have almost solely used digital technology to make photographs. This technology has opened up a vast array of tools and techniques for image manipulation that were previously almost unimaginable. The presence of this powerful ability to alter images has made me wonder what, at this point in time, defines a photograph.
A photograph is a 2-dimensional representation of a 3-dimensional scene. The real-life scene however triggers an emotional response influenced not only by the visual but also by sounds, smells, atmosphere and motion. A photograph cannot begin to capture all of these sensory components but its job is to try.
In my view, a photograph should be a reasonably accurate portrayal of what the photographer saw and felt. Images have long been made by adding or subtracting structural and compositional elements to construct pictures that may mimic real life or that may have no counterpoint in the natural world. Current digital tools have greatly enhanced this ability. Personally, I find that this type of image manipulation does not fit with what I want my photographs to convey.
A photograph, however, is never an exact record of what is in front of the camera. There are too many equipment-induced artifacts encountered in turning the 3-dimensional scene into a 2 -dimensional picture to claim that a photograph represents only exactly what was seen. Photographers have long used pre and post-exposure techniques to try to overcome these artifacts and to add back emotion into the image. These methods include changes in framing, alterations of the visible detail in the light and dark areas, changes in the contrast and tonal values and changes in the relative balance and intensity of color or removing color altogether. I do employ all these tools to produce what I hope is an expressive, final photograph.
I work to make photographs that try to be true to what I saw at the time the exposure was made but more importantly, true to the emotional response I felt at that time. I make photographs that bring me joy and hope that those who view them share that joy.
Robert H. Ardinger, Jr.