A Little About Photography

Photography, the more I love photography the less I actually think about it. What is the essence of photography? It is related to how we consider photography and what photography is to us. For most people photography is a way to remember, you go on a trip and you take pictures to remember that trip. To remember the moments.

Is it exactly a way to remember though? If you were to show those photographs to someone unrelated to the trip or to you, they may try to find a story behind them, but they would not understand them. Then a photograph is not a memory in itself, it is a way to trigger the memories of people who shared it.

Although I love photography, I never opened the dictionary to read how it was defined. Oxford dictionary states: “photography: the art or practice of taking and processing photographs.”

There are a few things we can see in this definition. First, Photography is either an art or a practice, it serves a multi purpose. The practice is to take pictures to trigger the memories of things you saw. The art is to show something to others through a photograph. To organize the frame in a way, so that it is not about what is inside of the frame anymore, but even more about what is not. Organizing what is real to match your vision of the world.

The second is that photography is about taking and processing. The processing (or lack of processing if a choice) is said to be part of the photography process.

Mentioning processing raises the issue of truth. Is there truth in photography? Capturing what is real is to be honest a very tricky issue. If you were to ask a photographer in charge of taking the photograph of a painting how he feels. He would tell you, hard: hard to obtain the right colors, hard not to flatten the photograph but to retain the strokes of painting.

And what is truth in photography exactly? Is it to show the world as it is? If so, then it would look very different from how we see it, since the range of colors which we, humans, perceive is narrow. It depends on the number of cones in our eyes and their range.

If the truth is to show the world as humans see it, then we face an issue. Not all humans are born the same, some are taller, some are skinnier, some have blonde hair. And we have different eyes with a different perception.

Most camera manufacturers use the CMOS sensor for the cameras they manufacture. Understanding the global functioning of this sensor helps us to understand our current issue. A CMOS sensor is electronic, when electrons reach the censor inside the camera, the photo-sites of the censor record their value.

The problem is that those photo-sites are colorblind. To produce colors, most sensors have photo-sites each focusing on one of the three primary colors: In other words red, green and blue. Then the information recorded by the censor is filtered and mixed to produce the photograph you see.

The most common way of processing, also called demosaicing is through the Bayer filter pattern. This technique gives priority to the green color, green accounts for twice as much as red or blue in the formula.

Because the human eye is very sensitive to green compared to the two other primary colors, camera manufacturers have to adapt how cameras perceive the world, so that it indeed looks like what we see. Understanding how the camera processes photographs, there is no universal truth in our visual perception of the world.

For such reasons, looking for truth in photography is an enterprise promised to fail. Instead, it is using the world as a raw material for us to shape. We are lucky as photographers, for we were given the whole world as a playground, to be the eyes of our world.