by Gary Fong
Photographer: Kent Miller
“Is it PhotoShop?” The first reaction of most photographers to Kent Miller’s image is that question. That’s exactly the reaction of all three judges of the WeArePhotographers’ “Scenes of Summer” contest.
We were looking for hooks or wires, if it was a real jet, if there were a stake in the ground to balance the jet behind the woman’s head, if there were any bad PhotoShop seams in the image. It looks real. Or is it something more sinister. Is Miller an expert PhotoShopper, applying his digital layers skills to combine two or three images together?
Okay…nothing apparent. The next question, “Is there a place like this on Kokomo?” (For those of you who are too young to know about the Beach Boys, “Kokomo” is a song about a mythical island in the Caribbean.) Or a better question…”Was the image shot at a real place?” We spent more than enough time asking the question, is it real?
The sad part…in this day and age of digital photography, our first reaction is to ask if it’s real. 20 years ago, the question would have never come to mind…of course it’s real, one would think during the infancy of PhotoShop. But to satisfy inquisitive minds, play the following:
The facial expressions, the body language, the reaction of the people in the background all contribute to the reality of the moment. One could almost hear the sound of the jet flying by in Miller’s still image.
Now the nit picking.
If the image wasn’t real, details like the cropped hands and feet of the boy, the jet engine touching her hair, or the empty space on the right would have been corrected for aesthetics. Oddly enough, because of the technical flaws, the photo looks more genuine. Reality is genuinely imperfect.
It would be nice to have the hands and feet in the frame. It would be nice to have the wings not cropped. It would be nice if the elements of the photo were balanced. If it were…it would be a totally different image, provoking a different reaction, “It’s too perfect. It has to be PhotoShopped!!!”