I figured I’d address something and get it off my chest. It’s been there a long time and seeing yet another article on DeviantArt about it makes me a little uneasy. The subject is image manipulations. It also encompasses copyrights, free use and a half dozen things ultimately culminating and a large accusation of a “ripper.” A person who “rips” something is stealing, otherwise known are “ripping something off.” This is NOT the same as manipulating an image. If you think so you’re a moron. Ripping something off would be to exactly copy something and claim it as your own. In most cases this would be downloading something and reposting it to a different website as your own, giving no credit to original sources. I say again, this is NOT the same as image manipulations. A “manip” as we’ll call it, would consist of taking an image, usually a photograph, and altering it in some way as to make it different from the original. For example, taking a stock photo of a person, altering it heavily in Photoshop, changing colors, overlaying patterns, cutting pieces out, blending it with other images, adding this to it, etc. That is a photo manipulation. Did you start with something of your own? No. Did you end up with something that is distinctly yours? Yes. And that’s what makes all the difference.
The article I saw, which angered me greatly was one from a senior Deviant Art administrator, condemning the use of photos and other objects not of your own design in your work. I couldn’t understand the reason for the contempt. If someone used one of my photographs, manipulated it a reasonable amount, added text, textures and design elements and then held it up to the world and said “look at what I made”, I would be proud. Why? Because something from my original piece inspired that person to make something of his/her own. And that’s fantastic.
Now, if someone took one of my photos, stripped off my copyright and put it up on their own site, then yes, of course I’d ask them to take it down. But that’s different. That’s blatantly stealing. But I’m not about to get upset if someone asks me to use a photo in a manipulation. I’d be honored.
I can even site historical precedence for this as well. Let’s have a little history lesson. I won’t go into details about how ancient people used the same cave paintings or anything like that. The things I’m thinking of are far more recent. The 1960’s and 70’s were a particularly interesting time when it comes to the subject of art. Most artists were rebelling against “the system” and doing so with their art. Two art movements stand out in my mind: The Pop art movement and the Mix Media movement that directly followed on its coat tails. Most of you have heard of Andy Warhol I’m guessing. He was a master at taking iconic images and using them for his artistic purposes. I don’t think I have to mention any soup cans do I? But it goes further than that. An equally important artist, if not more so, is more commonly forgotten by popular art history. That artist was Robert Raoschenburg. His work consisted of mostly found images, from magazine and newspapers as well as paint, lithography and various other transfer or printing techniques. He introduced the idea that the image isn’t necessarily the important element so much as the meaning and idea behind it. Raoschenburg used images and paint in combination to illustrate emotions and political ideas. And this was considered very “high art.” Did people try and sue Raoschenburg for the use of their images? Yup. Did they win? Nope. They lost because he had taken their images and evolved them beyond merely images and into art.
This I feel is the same with photo manipulations. Merely because we’re not using paint to alter our images, doesn’t make it any less “art-like.” We’re (by we I mean artists using computers) using our own “digital paint” to manipulated available images into unique pieces and I think that’s very respectable and a good use of the medium of digital technology.
What I can understand is people not liking “famous people wallpaper.” You’ve seen it. It’s usually a picture of some famous actor/actress, cut out of whatever it was in and slapped on a background and resized to make someone a nifty desktop. This kind of use I don’t particularly like. This is probably a double standard but I don’t care. To me, it’s not art. I’m sorry if that sounds high and mighty, but it just isn’t. It’s a photo of some watery tart with a simple background and some text. That’s not art. My definition of art involves the process of creativity, expression, ideals and ideas. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, creative about super models.
So, I guess I’m angry with the “community” for frowning upon photo-manipulations as not being a viable art form or not seeing them as extensions of “mixed media” which they are, and I’m also angry with the people making wallpaper of supermodels for bringing them to that conclusion. I don’t think anything can be done about it either. People who want supermodel desktops will continue to make them and people using images for legitimate art will continue to be lumped into the same category. It’s sad really. I’m sure Raoschenburg and Warhol would turn over in their graves if they knew what the “art community” had become. When will it be time to stop squabbling among yourselves and start reinventing and being inspired by art once again? That’s a question I leave to the self centered, close-minded people at Devaint Art.
PS: I would like to add that I’ve actually never submitted, nor even really done any photo manipulations publicly, although there have been a few here and there. I’ve also never done any “super model” wallpaper either. I don’t want people to say, “he’s only defending them because he’s one of them” because that simply isn’t true. I’ve been inspired by a great deal of things, and have certainly used ideas and design elements from other people and incorporated them into my own work in the past. So, my opinion comes from one of neutrality and impartiality. I don’t condone stealing and I never will. But I do like manipulations and will continue to consider those with thought and meaning to be art in and of themselves.
If you don’t like my opinion, bite me. You continued reading of your own free will.