My BoW tutor suggested I look at Nadav Kandar’s The Dark Line, as a contrasting interpretation of the same estuary as in Frank Watson’s work.
Kandar’s project is shown on his website (https://www.nadavkander.com/works-in-series/dark-line-the-thames-estuary/single) and Photoworks has an interesting interview with him about the work (https://photoworks.org.uk/interview-nadav-kander/). Whereas Watson’s interpretation of the estuary is quite literal, Kandar’s is more about the creation of atmosphere and the artist’s reworking of the referent to express something of himself.
It is this different approach to the process of photography that interests me in the comparison between the works. In the interview Kandar comments:
NK: It’s in my studio that the most decisive moment of this process takes place. You can’t make a great print without a good photograph but I must say that for me it’s not in the picture taking. There’s a lot of layering of colour and weight, and the editing and printing process is what takes these prints a further distance than the photograph itself.
This is particularly evident in some of Kandar’s works that take on a painterly quality. While he may not have artificially added new elements to the photos, they are worked to the extent that they possibly bear only a passing resemblance to the unprocessed image. Whereas the images in Kandar’s work on the Yangtze appear worked to a lesser extent, in interviews with Kandar, it is clear that he views his work as an expression of how he sees and feels, including in his portrait work.
There is an artistic decision in the extent to which postprocessing possibilities are used, and this has become more accessible with digital images and tools. I explored the possibility of working images when I was restricted to iPhone photography for a long period. I enjoyed this work and expressing how I felt about subjects. When I work now, I use Photoshop heavily after a period of abandoning it for Lightroom and very straight work.
An example of an unprocessed file and the processed output are below to illustrate.
The colours and areas of focus have been worked to make the image visually compelling. Some might say that the resulting image doesn’t look like it did in reality. However, that is not relevant as my work is not intended to document reality but add my own interpretation and create visual interest.
What I’m still working on understanding is where the line falls in image enhancement. I suspect that there is no fixed line, but it is a combination of personal voice and appropriateness for the subject matter. Kandar’s more abstract estuary work seemed to allow him more licence than the Yangtze with its obvious human and man-made elements. It is clear that a similar treatment needs to be applied across a series if it is to maintain coherence. This has significant implications for workflow and decision making if extensive rework of individual images is to be avoided.