Photo Essay

Conduct Unbecoming

Save Me

On my brother's recommendation, I decided to come on board jpg several months ago. As I perused the website, I found the rules of engagement a bit odd: "JPG is about mostly unmodified photos. By "mostly unmodified" we mean you haven't deleted or composited elements in the photo. Keep it real, baby! (Enhancements to color and sharpness are fine, of course)."

So I can post photos but can't play with them and if I do... we don't want them and you're not a real photographer. It looked like this site was where the photographic rubber met the road... where real photogs hung... the ones who break bricks when they spit on them.

Hell... I can't even break a brick with a great big hammer. So, hmmm, how was this gonna' work for me? Having been a rebel with and without a cause most of my life, I have come to realize that eventually I wouldn't be able to walk if I kept shooting myself in the foot. Translated: I'd been reining in the rebel and working hard to conform. So coming on board seemed the perfect time to practice 'respecting the man'.

Of course, these rules of engagement would certainly put a crimp in my creativity. In my amateur opinion, one of the best things about digital photography is the software that completely redefines what is possible. I view my untouched photos as canvases. To those I apply the wizardry of technology and out the other end come the stories, the emotion, the art, the nuance, the creativity, and the eccentricities that are me.

For about 6 months after joining, I tried behaving like a respectable photog. Every time I shuffled an image over to Photoshop or Lightroom, I expected a siren to start blaring and the photo police to come banging on my door. The longer this went on, the unhappier I became until I finally went looking for my sad little rebel and told her, "Suit up Toots. Game on".

Advancements in art, computer technology and photography are happening at light speed today. The Baroque Period, the days of Reubens and Rembrandt, lasted 150 years, Romanticism 70 years, and Impressionism only 20 years. The Abstract Expressionism of the 1940s - 1950s came and left in 10 years. Do the timeframes reflect worth, or do they reflect forward thinking?

Photography is no different. From the camera obscuras of long ago through the 1900s, development occurred at a snail's pace. But once the first digital camera was introduced in 1991, technology has blown the whole thing wide open and we are bound by nothing.

We do not exist in a bubble and if we don't hop on the Techno Express, we're gonna' get left at the station. JPG knows that they must continually reinvent themselves to stay viable, so they do. They know they can't stay in the local print shop, typesetting and waxing clip art for the latest edition of yesterday's news. This thinking applies to our art as well. If photographers in the 21st century don't embrace technology, they will be consumed by those who do.

Do I alter my images? Absolutely. Do I believe that this discredits me as a serious photographer or artist? Hell no. I take advantage of every preset and filter and tool and brush and slider and setting and shortcut I can get my hands on. I do the work. I teach myself the technology and then I use it. The discussion about doing the work 'inside' the camera or 'outside' the camera is just semantics. Altering what the eye actually sees is alteration, period.

All the photos included have been messed with... some more than others. That doesn't make the image less worthy no more than a digital image is less worthy than a film image. I believe it is time to step off the soapboxes and embrace ALL that photography is, has been, and will be in the techno years to come.

For the most part, these are the images you prefer.

As for me, this baby IS keepin' it real... her way.

24 responses

  • Tom Harvey

    Tom Harvey said (18 Jun 2012):

    I couldn't agree more - this is the iAge. Art is direct engagement with life, a life which, for better or worse, has been forever changed by the digital revolution. Failure to take on board these opportunities and instead long for the pre-digital past is failure to live fully in the present. From one image editing rebel to another, love the story, love the images, keep it up!

  • Brendan Kelly

    Brendan Kelly (Deleted) gave props (18 Jun 2012):

    YOU GO GIRL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love the art submitted with the story. But, to tell you the truth the story is the factual art in my opinion. You spoke from your heart and mind and you are sooooooooooooooooooooooo right on point. I do believe the integrity of a photograph should be kept as real as possible. However, as an artist I feel it is critical to add my flavor to the picture. Make it my own. Bailey this is well written and the art is beautiful. Thank you!

  • Bailey Cooper

    Bailey Cooper said (18 Jun 2012):

    Brendan ~ Ahhhhh... another rebel without a cause. Your words about the integrity of an image are important but keeping it 'real' as possible has different meanings for different people. Many of my images are close to straight up. Other images are photographed specifically with the intent of creating a canvas for what can be done with it artistically. The dismissal of this type of photography for archaic reasons speaks to the human condition of resisting change. The rants over the subject end up in division across the aisle like Republicans and Democrats on the Hill. I say, embrace it all and glory in the wonder. Love you my friend and thanks so much for the nomination.

  • Bailey Cooper

    Bailey Cooper said (19 Jun 2012):

    Tom ~ Posting an article such as this is risky business. I know. I am a notorious boat-rocker. When you carry the dissenting opinion, it usually is met with silence and distancing. I am sure I will be seeing that in the wake of this essay. But I am a person who supports inclusion and can tell that you do as well. This is a journey of enlightment. It is a journey of supporting one another and learning from each other. Therefore, this is a journey of past, present and future. Like you, I choose to live it fully in the light of knowledge. Thank you Tom, for your support, your words, your vision, and your amazing art.

  • Michele Wambaugh

    Michele Wambaugh (Deleted) said (27 Jun 2012):

    We use whatever we can to make our photographic reality happen! Great story & photos!

  • Bailey Cooper

    Bailey Cooper said (27 Jun 2012):

    Absolutely Michele and I am proud of the work I put into learning the technology. Not unlike the thousands of photos you've taken to give us the beauty of String Theory Continuum, it is a dynamic process and an amazing learning experience. Thank you for the nomination and the wonderful props

  • Daniel Nathaniel

    Daniel Nathaniel said (3 Jul 2012):

    While attending photo-journalism training with the DoD the instructors taught that there was a huge distinction between a photo that was enhanced (color correction, etc.) and a photo that was manipulated (significant alteration to what the camera captured.) If a photo was manipulated it had to be labeled as a "photo illustration" to distinguish it from the untouched or enhanced "photo."

  • Robert Case

    Robert Case said (3 Jul 2012):

    The answer to your question...if you posted one is "what does JPG want this site to be?"

    I joined years ago attracted by the "keepin' it real" mantra of those days. There are LOTS of sites out there where photomanipultaion is taken to fantastic extremes, but there were very few sites that set the photographers bar at the height that JPG did. How good are you when the ONLY tools you have are your camera and your eye?

    JPG was "about photography," plane and simple. Nothing more, nothing less. Knowing correct exposure, composition and the natural effects you can achieve with ISO, focal length, shutter speed and f/stop. To ME....and to those of us who signed on back then... we liked that "challenge" to make photographs that rose to the highest perfection and standards of art without relying on other tools that would automatically correct any flaws.

    To put it another way, how good of an athelete can you be without performance enhancing drugs?

    In "the old days" of JPG, before it was almost shut down, the photographers followed the rule to "post your BEST photos, not ALL." And the critique you got for those select, "best" photos were honest and real....often pointing out the flaws or things that were NOT liked, instead of the 100% positive "love the tone" critiques that are the way today.

    But, in spite of the ever increasing enrollment JPG suddenly was going to be shut down - economics we were told.... The members cried out and a way was found to keep JPG alive and in so doing JPG began to "evolve." Photographs that were once not accepted (sure to their inappropriateness) were suddenly embraced as "art," though the photographs craft and effort amounted to point-and-shoot. This evolution caused a LOT of members to leave and they were replaced with new, and JPG "evolved."

    Along with those losses...and gains...came the new mantra to embrace photography in whichever way YOU ever you want and with whatever you want...and so that's the way it's gone.

    This is all NOT to say that one way was/is good or bad...

    To survive in the "business" a site like JPG must appeal to the mass. To make it more selective in order to embrace a finer art is pure suicide.

    Before closing I do want to say this - The photographs you've posted with your essay are excellent! - you clearly have an eye and talent and ability to make captivating art - art that takes a simple photograph and turns it into something much much more. To constrain that art and your ability would be wrong on so many levels. Kudos to you and Keep on keepin' it real!

  • Bailey Cooper

    Bailey Cooper said (3 Jul 2012):

    Rob ~ Thanks for posting this response to the essay. Good debates challenge intellect, create paths for healthy discussion and exercise the left hemisphere which is a plus for those who are right-minded... the creators of the world.

    Much of what you wrote goes without saying. The purpose of jpg's qualifier needs no further explanation though it is good for those reading the story to have the pros and cons presented in tandem. I researched jpp’s history (unsavory at some junctures) after signing up. I want to know the why about almost everything. It was eye opening and it sort of ‘set the stage’ for this essay.

    The interesting thing about my photo journey is that I really didn’t start any serious manipulation until I began shooting manual. I bought an online course (22) CDs and made myself learn and apply the material about digital photography. It was then that I really started using and enjoying editing software. I want it all... to see it all.... to use it all... to do it all.

    I have a huge problem with the banal gushing that goes on here as well. The emphasis ends up on the wrong syllable. What I do think is that there is a meeting place somewhere in the middle and a way of grouping these photos on the site that keeps us all real.
    The bottom line... I am a seeker of truth. To post anything without full exposure is more than uncomfortable... it is wrong.

    Thank you for posting and for your kind words. I am so pleased to have your words combined with this essay.

  • Bailey Cooper

    Bailey Cooper said (3 Jul 2012):

    Dan ~ Your comment is the sum of the parts. There should be a place to post both here on jpg and I think that distinction should be made. Thanks for adding to the discussion. With enough words passing between us, we all may just find our place in the world of photography.

  • Litz Go

    Litz Go said (5 Jul 2012):

    Your words are eloquently written so does the comments that followed. The images are elegant and placed the jpg in a different category. I've been here before and fully understand what Rob was saying. So many left and came back, JPG is a unique community and been so open to all types of photography. The main reason some left is because JPG become so liberal that pornographic images are accepted as photographic art. For one, I stayed because I understand that each one expresses themselves differently. If I don't agree, I just keep quiet and not let it bother me. The images I uploaded and will upload are so conservative just because I don't have any knowledge of manipulation, if I know how to do it, I will for sure experiment on it and will enjoy it very much.
    I first viewed your photo from the jpg blog. I thought to myself that you must be good because JPG recognized it by featuring your images at an early stage of joining.
    I was not mistaken nor jpg.... I personally thought that you elevated JPG with your images. This photo essay proves it more! Kudos to you and looking forward to more! You deserves to be nominated and win.

  • Bailey Cooper

    Bailey Cooper said (5 Jul 2012):

    Litz ~ I am so excited to see the latest responses posted to ‘Conduct Unbecoming’. It is the type of dialogue that creates understanding and growth. Change is good. Change is necessary, and… change is inevitable.

    First and foremost, JPG is a business. JPG has not continued forward out of the goodness of their hearts. There are salaries to be paid, a website to manage, and, until late, a magazine to put into print. The economy was much stronger in the early days, strong enough to support a more dedicated view and version of sharing photography. Unfortunately, economics change along with everything else and to stay viable, JPG embraced the inevitable.

    The single word that best describes the success of change is acceptance. In turn, acceptance is evidenced by new behavior. We can’t say we’ve changed while continuing to embrace only what has been. Over the years I’ve found that nearly every change I’ve encountered has improved my life. Rob commented, “Is an athlete real if s/he takes performance enhancing drugs”? Worded that way, I couldn’t agree more. But that is only one debating point. Another point might be, ‘If you needed open-heart surgery, would you want today’s surgeons and technology or that which was available 50-60 years ago’. Both points are valid and both have worth. There are many, many views and points that can be debated. But if the emphasis is placed on the validity of a single point, acceptance will never arrive and we cease being a community and, instead, become enemies enmeshed in never-ending disceptation.

    Regarding my work, I am a relatively new photographer. So, you can imagine it was quite heady for me to make the blog a few times. But I see so much here that is far better and I learn from each image and essay and style. All of this is part of the experience. JPG is not a club. It is a community. I don’t know ‘how we were’. I know ‘how we are’ and I am in… fully.

    Thank you, Litz, for your addition to this sharing journey. And thank you for the lovely comments and generous compliments. Also, thank you for your honesty. You are what JPG can be in the eye of the hurricane of change.

  • Indra Widi

    Indra Widi said (10 Jul 2012):

    Hello Everyone,
    I am trying to grasp and understand what you are currently discussing.

    The problem is, it's because: 'we are spoiled by Adobe' - the best imaging - but sorry, I do not hate adobe, but I already do not use it almost 5 years) - I choose another editing software that works such as 'Darkroom' - strict in the editing process and the final result. Capturing the moment printing with the 'beautiful process' - just it all...

    However, the art is 'only' the second part, when I get it all with a photographic technique is correct first, then go beyond it, to earn the other appreciation. And it's very 'hard' extensive discussion of its area.

    so, you include people who are tight with photography or not? Or prefer to be pampered by the editing software? Or mixing? it is a choice of how to get started and get the right results.

    And I like rules - because tight enough to concentrate on photography in the digital era.

  • Indra Widi

    Indra Widi said (15 Jul 2012):

    Return it to the meaning of photography itself: from which it originated and from? and this was decades ago talked about.

    Photography is a 'ritual' process a series of technical understanding on a recording device with 'strict', which is dedicated to keeping the photography / recording it remains 'original'.

    What is there (the object), there must be at the final result. And it's no less or more. Nothing is removed or raised. Addition or subtraction of objects (that later became the subject) in the final result, is not a photography.

    The art is: adjustment of the (medium) a fair and just lay in synchronization ability of the tool (optical media) and the actual reality of our eyes.

    That is because to fulfill standard requirements to the actual appearance of the eye, because the tools are still limited recording capabilities.

    The quality of the recorded number of colors, will distort the reality and a rejection of harmony of the brain. Thus, the required capacity is great enough to restore the recorded reality into more detail and hope to match the original.

    Photography and even blind to the aesthetic rules of composition and harmony.

    Photography is only the unity of the process to 'move reality' into the recording: 'freeze' - in one language and meaning.

    The final composition is, in: "wrong and right" on the use and technical understanding of photography, there is a aperture and speed. That is, when the shooting occurred "over-exposure ', the actual a mistake and it is already happening. Make a mistake 'just a little' - not the focus is still called the out of focus. And it's a fatal mistake. Do not shy away.

    And the achievement of a series of technical understanding in the science of photography artisitk all it's called: The Art of Photography.

    It's that 'simple' and just a whole photographic process. Is it a good can be done???

    Beyond all that is called: Visual Arts that use photography.

  • Indra Widi

    Indra Widi said (15 Jul 2012):

    However, back to the original topic: Sorry, I do not understand this is a 'photo essay'. This is a 'Personal Project'.

  • Bailey Cooper

    Bailey Cooper said (15 Jul 2012):

    Then, Indra, we agree to disagree. There is room for many interpretations in the world of photography and I am more than content 'labeling' my work 'visual art that uses photography'. Also, apologies are not necessary. Part of photo essay sharing here on jpg is the inclusion of feedback and commentary and I appreciate yours.

  • Nancy Richard

    Nancy Richard gave props (5 Oct 2014):

    Right on, baby ! We've come a long way, and I wouldn't hesitate to use the technology for one single instant. After all, beauty really IS in the eye of the beholder, and this beholder knows what she likes.

  • Donna Mullins

    Donna Mullins (Deleted) said (8 Oct 2014):

    Great photos and essay Bailey. Who doesn't like to tweak? Photos have been altered in one way or another way before Ansels sandbox was the darkroom. You look through the viewfinder and like what you see. You take the shot,come home, load it to your computer,and if you are like me, delete over half of what you shot, and start making improvements on the shots that you like.Some you leave alone, but most are altered. If you take the original shot yourself,what difference does it make what you do with it later? Doesn't matter at all to me. I love looking at great photos whether they are in their natural state or they have been beautifully enhanced. It's an art form either way.
    Well, that's my opinion Bailey for what it's worth. I love your work. Keep creating!

  • Aaron Schwartz

    Aaron Schwartz gave props (8 Oct 2014):


  • Bailey Cooper

    Bailey Cooper said (8 Oct 2014):

    Nancy ~ That we have. This country seems to accept the most bizarre changes but instantly go to guns for something as benign as photography. All the whiners, therefore, will be required to surrender their computers, tablets, and smart phones by the end of the year. They will also be required to drive cars with power nothing and casette players only. That'll teach 'em... smirk. Thanks for your comments. Love, love, love your work.

  • Bailey Cooper

    Bailey Cooper said (8 Oct 2014):

    Thanks to my partner in crime, Aaron Schwartz, for the nom. Unlike me, Aaron can break a brick when he spits on it, so don't mess with him (smirk). Like Donna, EVERYTHING has his attention and deserves at least one snap. His post processing is to die for.

  • Saroj Swain

    Saroj Swain gave props (24 Oct 2014):

    WoW!!! love the photography. You are an artist... Vote!! and Nominated for story of the week....

  • Donna Mullins

    Donna Mullins (Deleted) said (25 Oct 2014):

    YES to story of the week.

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