Enhanced Reality: Exploring the Boundaries of Photo Editing

Palmisano gears his work to the particular style a photographer wants, but also to the preferences of the magazine in question. And if he is familiar with a jury, he says, he can optimize a picture to boost its chances of winning an award.

Of course, this isn't something jurors like to hear, which explains the somewhat fraught relationship between 10b and the World Press Photo Award. But ruling out photos because they seem too perfect isn't helpful either, which explains why part of 10b's repertoire is to "enhance" photos to reduce their quality from an objective standpoint. To do this, the company adds typical image errors and simulates graininess. All you have to do is reproduce the effect that a scratch on the lens would have created in a photo, and purist jurors will praise the photographer for not having gone too far with enhancement, Palmisano says with a chuckle.

Ironically, the magic of Photoshop makes it possible to edit photos to look as if they had not been edited with Photoshop. Palmisano believes that in the future photographers will increasingly emphasize authenticity by using post-processing to make their images look less perfect than if they had been taken with a digital camera. The worse a spectacular photo looks, the more genuine it feels.

When Paul Hansen took his picture in the Gaza Strip, another photographer was nearby. His photo must have been taken in almost the same location and at almost the same time, but it is an ordinary-looking news photo. It lacks the perfect cropping, the magical light and the debate over authenticity, but it also lacks the resonance and sympathy of Hansen's image.

Hansen says that he wants to achieve good things with his work. Perhaps an ordinary news photo wouldn't have been enough for that.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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