The Current State of Color in Environmental/Landscape Photography

I have for some time been traipsing around the web, in galleries, museums and art fairs looking at various photographs and am now convinced that lately many images have little to do with the actual scene. Or “actual” photography for that matter, except for the use of the camera to collect raw materials for photomontage.

After teaching and exhibiting photography (digital, analogue and hybrid) for over 35 years it seems that the past ten years the current state of color nature photography is not only oriented towards Madison-Avenue-advertising-way-ovestatement, but goes beyond  a very over saturated dye transfer print. Nature photography has become fantasy photography.

So, here's my question at this juncture;

At what point does a photographer cease being a photographer and becomes an illustrator or montage artist? Just because a camera was used to initially capture the raw material for an image does not mean that the final image with the amount of colour embellishment, composited backgrounds, etc. is still a photograph, certainly not in the traditional sense of representing the original scene within reason. This is especially so with the increasing number of images made by compositing foregrounds and backgrounds from different images into a single believable scene. At that point I posit that they are no longer photographs, digital or analogue makes no difference. They are a fantasy illustration.

I am not suggesting that the surreal images photomontages by artists such as Jerry Uelsmann are not amazing poetry and innovative statements of art. Photography? Sure.  But they are not trying to pass themselves off as reality. They are dreams and sureality.

I freely acknowledge that Fujichrome, Kodachrome, Ektachrome et. al. change the relationships between the colors reflected and the colors as interpreted by their respective responses. In fact whose to say that I see red or any colour the same as anyone else.

I strongly suggest that such oversexed fantasy “landscapes” might do more harm than good in sensitizing the public to the beauty of the natural world AS IT IS. The greens in the Hoh rainforest are not always glowing, iridescent, emerald green. They are striking nonetheless. They need no "sweetening". Such hypercolour imagery dulls the viewers' ability to appreciate the true subtle and simultaneously grand appearance of nature without hyperbole and Madison Avenue overstatement.

This of treatment only feeds in to the lack of any nuance left in our collective lives.

It is over spiced, over sexed and unreal leaving the viewers unable to appreciate the subtlety of non silicone enhanced nature. Essentially environmental porn. The Victoria’s Secret of Nature imagery.