Confessions of a Photoshop user!

This is an excerpt from an article I wrote for a recent show:

I’ve been shooting photographs for over 25 years. I’ve had my own dark rooms and I’ve worked in professional labs. I’ve printed color and black and white in chemical baths and large machines. In all these processes, where there was flexibility, I and every photographer took advantage of that flexibility to make the best image possible. Invariably I’m asked if I use Photoshop, or, better yet is when I hear one person justify to another at a show or gallery, my quality of work by saying I do all or this and that in Photoshop - as if with PS I can take a digital camera and do anything through the magic of PS and come up with the detail and saturation that I get from using large format film.

I do use Photoshop. Do I “manipulate” the images in PS? Well, I really try to get the images to look like the scene I saw and keep them as “real” as possible. At times that’s difficult: I usually shoot in inclement weather or in early / late light, sometimes almost no light. My exposures range from a good part of a second to many minutes, and, my film’s only rated to be accurate to 10 seconds. Beyond all that though, my film (Fuji Velvia 50) interprets what it sees, then my scanner (Imacon Flextight X5) interprets what’s in the film and creates a digital file, then my computer (Mac Pro :-) interprets that file and puts it on my monitor (Eizo Coloredge CG301W), which I then adjust to my liking before sending it off to my printer (Epson Stylus Pro 9900) that has a color profile for the paper I’m using (Hahnemuhle Bamboo). So, I try to keep the original look and feel of the real scene in mind, but, I work with what I have and I would be lying if I said I didn’t allow my preferences to guide me: “How much contrast was in that original scene?”, “Was the light that cold blue light, typical of afternoon shadows?” - I don’t recall exactly. I shoot for what could be seen as real and as faithful as possible to the original scene and to any pre-visualizations I had. My film is very sensitive (over saturates) greens and reds, so, if you compare my transparencies to the final prints, you’ll see I often tone down the saturation in those colors. I know I prefer the “warm” side of things but anything too distant from reality, well, just doesn’t look real.

It's extremely rare that I grab any area of the whole image and do anything to it - I don’t knock those who do, I just don’t do it often, at all. Anyway, my name’s John Hanses, and I use Photoshop...”