@tupisaravia – A Nephophilia and an Instagram influencer walk in to a bar
Just when you thought the world couldn’t get much crazier and people were running out of things to belittle others about, a new war breaks out between self-proclaimed photo warriors and an Argentinian Instagram influencer.
I don’t write too much anymore, (you’ll probably notice from the incoming grammar abominations) but I’ve seen posts, and posts and posts targeting Tupi Saravia (@tupisaravia) over the last week and felt like flexing my fingers to put a word in. It struck a chord with me as my day job relates to working with influencers and my passion is photography (specifically, with a lot of clouds).
Let’s get stuck in..
Replacing stuff in images isn’t new, and it’s not going to change.
Replacing ‘stuff’ in an image isn’t new. It’s been happening for decades since the birth of photography and goes back to the darkroom. There’s even a term for it – ‘Compositing’, and you can find around 20,000 tutorials on YouTube on how to do it well. Even the legendary landscape photographer Ansel Adams, famed for his ‘purity’ was rumoured to composite images (although take this with a pinch of salt, he’s not alive to confirm or deny). Steve McCurry, a world-renowned photojournalist has replaced parts of some of his images which you’ve possibly seen in a Nat Geo magazine not so long ago.
Many photographers all over the world regularly composite images, and sell them, enter them to competitions, earn money from them, and gain thousands of followers of their work.
This is going to become more common in the everyday world with the rise of apps, improvements in phone cameras and ever-increasing competition in the social & photography space. Get used to it!
Every photo is a lie.
That model on the cover of Vogue does have pores, makeup, zits and more. That amazing wildlife shot you’ve seen of a squirrel eating a peanut on top of a mushroom – it was baited. That majestic shot of a lion drinking from reflected water and looking into your eyes – it was a dude taking a photo through a fence at a zoo. That incredible sunset photo of that Zulu clan silhouetted on top of a rock – they were paid $100 to stand there.
These are all random examples I thought of, the point is a popular phrase in photography – Every photo is a lie. The photographer chooses what to put in their frame, when to take the photo, the angle, the lighting and the composition of subject. By choosing what to include, and almost just as importantly exclude, you are by definition and by intention, misrepresenting the scene.
Additionally, this quote from Fstoppers by Andy Day illustrates a further point:
“French philosopher Jean Baudrillard presented us with the idea of “hyperreality”, whereby the representation of something — however “true” that representation might be — becomes more authentic than the existing reality. As he wrote, it’s “more real than real,” where fiction does a more convincing job of conveying a sense of truth than the truth itself.” (Link)
So do photographers need to change their ways, or do people need to understand photography better?
Fraud or art…
The art or practice of taking and processing photographs. (source)
Photography is an art, not a collective venture to document the world as it truly is. Any photographer has the right to creative freedom, just like an artist, musician, filmmaker, writer, painter. You may not like it, but a photographer can create something of their own by their own means, and they’re not obliged to tell you how they did it.
It’s this freedom to create, envision and tell stories through photography which has given birth to some of the best photographers and filmmakers in the world. If we put shackles and ‘rules’ around what is and isn’t allowed in photography; we wouldn’t have the contributions to art we see today from so much fantastic talent. To call this ‘fraud’ assumes the photographer has misled by intent. This may sometimes be the case, but to assume the majority of photographers behave in this way is cynical at best.
Drawing a line.
In a world where we’re all looking for increased transparency and authenticity in everything, from the news we read, people we follow, companies we buy from; should the same expectations really reach into the arts? And if so, why would photography be scrutinised above anything else? We have music album charts filled with songs not written by the artist, not recorded by the artist, not released by the artist with lyrics not written by the artist; but we rarely question the legitimacy of their music.
Of course, there are lines that rightfully exist to serve our cultural expectations and increasing responsibility toward social issues – Editing body image of models for fashion photography is a prime example of how public pressure rightfully set a new precedent and expectation which many publishers and fashion labels follow today. This is a good thing, although you could argue it was originally more of a marketing decision than a creative one.
Additionally, with the rise of social media, we see more and more miscommunication and misinformation led by photography, either intentionally or accidentally. The thirst of 30-second fame and viral nature of the internet can drive people to deceive an audience who haven’t the time, awareness or interest to consider if what they’re seeing is authentic. A lot of photography shared within our new digital space is from a third party (not the creator), and for the most part either doesn’t have the story behind the photograph or includes a completely different version of events which misrepresents it. We’re having to deal with photography without context more and more, leaving work open to shared or influenced interpretation of what people see. Do we blame the photographer here or the messenger?
It’s easy to understand why some lay so much distrust in how visual storytelling has evolved; which relates to and often goes hand in hand with our distrust in the media at times; but there surely has to be a separation between the scrutiny we impose on photojournalistic and artistic realms of photography?
Let’s talk about Tupi.
I feel like the groundwork’s here now and I’m ready to get to the point. Tupi seems to be a fun-loving, Argentinian Instagram ‘influencer’ with a few hundred thousand followers. Beyond that, I know nothing about her. By her admission, she uses an app ‘Quickshot‘ to occasionally replace the clouds in the sky on some of her photos, which I think is totally harmless. There’s a number of similar apps on the app store and it really isn’t a shock to see people using them.
Judging by the light in some of the photos she used the cloud filter-thingy (whatever you want to call it), it looked like probably clear skies or maybe a few sparse clouds; so she’s not exactly changing a thunderstorm into a blue sky fluffy cloud day. Personally, I think the sky probably looked pretty good and she didn’t need to use the app to change things, but hey; maybe it’s just a habit she got in to, maybe she has a preference, more importantly, I didn’t take it and it’s not my place to tell other people how to create their photos. (Sorry, I’m British and genetically passive-aggressive).
A lot of comments in the posts I saw had an issue that she was doing this when her account has paid advertisements on it. Given the fact that almost every single image a company uses for advertising has been purposely edited and sometimes altered to improve the appearance of their products, it’s baffling to see people using this case for an influencer who has even less obligation to follow communication practices of a brand, which may or may not even exist.
Let’s talk about me
Well, not me, but my photography. I can hear the whispers of your thoughts ‘This Jez asshole is just sticking up for crafty photographers who break the non-existant rules because he does it himself“. I wanted to take the opportunity to give my personal view on it so you know the context in which I wrote this.
In short, I don’t replace things in my images. I do process them, and it’s something I really enjoy. I have personal lines in my landscape photography – I don’t replace skies, I don’t add-in birds or things that weren’t there, and I don’t change the shape or size of natural features – all of which are things some landscape photographers occasionally do. I have my line which I stay behind and perhaps it will move backwards or forward as my photography develops. Other’s have their lines which I may not agree with, but I’ll respect their right to follow it.
I’m not a ‘purist’ – Sometimes I’ll remove things that annoy me in an image or things I feel like are making my images messy. I generally have a minimalist style; so I don’t have a problem with occasionally removing things like telegraph poles, plane trails, fence posts, distant roads, signposts etc. These things I feel make my photos messy and removing them puts more emphasis on the natural scenery I want the viewer to notice. I’m simply removing distractions which don’t serve anything to the image.
I’m not afraid or ashamed to admit any of this – It’s not my intention to mislead anyone who looks at my images and I won’t relinquish my creative freedom when it comes to realising the scene I envisioned at the time I took the photograph. There’s a reason behind every decision capturing an image and change made while processing an image, and none relate to tricking people.
Rather symbolically as we’re talking photography, I wanted to end with some words of perspective. A week ago, Argentinian Instagram travel blogger extraordinaire Tupi Saravia was in a good place. Fast forward a week and she’s dealing with scrutiny from across the internet.
She took a photo. She put a cloud where maybe there wasn’t one originally. She posted it.
Are we really failing this hard as a species that we’re getting in heated arguments, sending abuse, escalating to new heights of bigotry and setting judgement toward someone we don’t know over whether a collection of water droplets should be there or not? Let’s get a grip, internet.
Thanks for reading. If you want to leave a comment, go for it (especially if you’re looking at my gallery trying to work out where there should be fence posts – i’ll let you know). Let’s not talk about Tupi though – let Tupi do Tupi, me do me, and you do you; the world works better when we respect each other and how we live our lives. It’s not so hard <3