EST. 2009

June 5, 2014

That Voyage Fantastique

SOMEONE ONCE ASKED ME WHETHER I "PHOTOSHOP" MY PHOTOS, which was a tricky question to answer given the broadness of the term and the stigma associated with it. On the one hand, there is enhancement. On the other hand, there is manipulation. While the former refers mainly to the cropping, corrections or adjustments made to the color, contrast, noise or orientation of an image, the latter makes "visual fiction" of a photograph, as astrophotographer Jerry Lodriguss so perfectly described it in his piece on digital manipulation ethics. Worth a read!

As much as I'd love to discuss enhancement vs. manipulation, the ethics and aesthetics surrounding the post-processing of images, not to mention the subjective human influences that naturally go into photography to begin with, I write this post in celebration of this so-called visual fiction. At least the artistic kind. Photoshop Trolling and Pic Pedantry aside.

Born in 1988 in France, Maia Flore belongs to a generation of artists today whose "images are constructed and captured in equal parts." Art critic and historian Martine Ravache is eloquent about it but put bluntly, these artists' work basically include post-processing or "Photoshopping." In Maia's recently-exhibited Le voyage fantastique, her photographs are truly fantastique, setting surreal scenes in breathtaking French locales. My favorites of the set feature a girl levitating in a stunning Thermes du Mont-Dore hallway, another clad in crimson at Bordeaux's Miroir d'eau, and yet another seemingly adding or removing crosses from the Opéra Royal de Versailles stage curtain.

Le voyage fantastique was commissioned by Atout France and Institut Français, who granted Maia carte blanche to carry out the project. The series journeys through 25 French heritage sites; a blithe and beautiful voyage completed by the artist in 66 days. Myself having visited both Bordeaux and Versailles, I am aware that Maia's photos are not only enhanced, but thoroughly manipulated and even meticulously staged. But they do not render their locations any less real. Miroir d'eau may as well look that surreal for a split second in reality, when they turn on the mist.

Back to whether or not I Photoshop my photos, the answer is: not enough apparently. Cropping, rotating, adjusting curves, color and contrast might remedy mediocre shots, but is there any reason why our personal photos can't aim to be as magical as Maia's?

Le voyage fantastique by Maia Flore,