Modern Landscape Photography. The Opportunities of the Digital Revolution

Term Paper, 2014

11 Pages, Grade: 2,0


Table of Contents

1. Changes in Photography over the last decades

2. Photograph of the Monument Valley and its alterations
2.1. Photography Theory relating to the pictures at hand
2.1.1. Sarah Kember’s Shadow of the Object: Photography and Realism
2.1.2. Lev Manovich’s The Paradoxes of Digital Photography
2.2. Discussion of different interpretations of the edited pictures
2.2.1. Color
2.2.2. Black and White

3. Digital Photography as a chance

4. Bibliography

1. Changes in Photography over the last decades

Over the course of the last years photography in general changed quite rapidly and starkly. In the beginning it was considered a new form of art, which obviously still is meaningful today, but also photography for non-art-related purposes becomes more and more common. Everyday photography as for example holiday pictures for remembering became even more widely spread, when digital photography was introduced. Not only the easier handling of a digital compared to an analog camera is a reason for the expansion of digital photography, another main issue of analog photography was the development of the pictures as well as the constant costs of films to put in the camera. With digital photography on the rise also more and more programs to edit and alter pictures popped up in the photography scene. The most prominent of these programs are probably Adobe’s Photoshop and Illustrator. They give the user lots of possibilities to adjust coloring, light, shadows, brightness and other characteristics of photographic images.

In this work a picture taken in the Monument Valley in Utah, USA in the year 2011 will be edited in several ways and it will be discussed, how these changes make different interpretations of these pictures possible, even though the original is the same with all used examples. This will lead to a further thinking about how photography changed from showing a picture of the world as it is in reality to today’s modern photography which only in very few images still shows this unaltered reality.

2. Photograph of the Monument Valley and its alterations

The original photograph was taken in September 2011 in the Monument Valley in Utah, USA during sunset. It shows a famous rock formation called the Elephant in the right part of the picture which is still mostly covered in sunlight. Only the bottom of the rock is already in the shadow as well as the ground around it. To the left other stone formations frame the picture. In the front area to the left a flag can be seen. It is the American Flag showing an Indian in the center, a flag standing for the Native American settlers, who have been living in the Monument Valley for generations and who consider it to be a holy place of Spirits, their gods. The flag is covered by shadow as well. These mentioned features of the picture will mostly be looked at more closely in the interpretation of the original as well as the edited pictures.

2.1. Photography Theory relating to the pictures at hand

As this paper works with digital photography and image editing the theories that can be related to the topic can mostly be considered as recent. Although photography already came up in the early 19th century it underwent many changes from then until today. Most of these changes are due to the fact that the possibilities as well as the technics developed further and the whole attitude towards photography shifted from an art occurrence towards a part of everyday life.

2.1.1. Sarah Kember’s Shadow of the Object: Photography and Realism

Sarah Kember writes in her article about the Realism of digital photography and how this Realism can be changed by altering the pictures. She also argues, that in general pictures to not show reality at all, not analog or digital photography do according to her opinion. They just show a picture of how an object or a place looks, they show something, but they are not the object itself. (Kember, 1996: 202)

Considering these thoughts with the pictures at hand, a question pops up, about if the pictures at hand show reality. The original picture taken in the Monument Valley is as pure as a digital photograph can be. It simply captures a moment and shows a reality how it was when the picture was taken. By altering the picture though, which will be discussed later on, this reality is bent towards different interpretations and different messages.

The aspect of Realism in photographic images is a point of discussion, when the picture of the monument valley is seen. It shows rock formations, which can actually be seen like this in the mentioned area in Utah, nothing was changed in the original picture. Seeing the Indian flag in the right area of the image, suggests, that the photographer is standing in a territory that belongs to the Native Americans. This is correct, but does the picture really show this? Monument Valley itself did not always belong to the Indians. It was taken away by the white settlers first, and then given back to them later, as the government of the USA tried to make up for the mistakes that were made with the Native people. So the picture only shows the truth in parts. It stands for today’s inheritance of the territory by the Indians, but is not able to show the beholder, that it has not been this way for a long time before.

2.1.2. Lev Manovich’s The Paradoxes of Digital Photography

Manovich discusses other issues of digital photography but in some points he shows the same attitude Kember seems to disagree with in her essay. He states that “Digital Photography does not exist” (Manovich, 1995: 241). In his opinion digital photography is not photography at all because it does not have the characteristics a photograph has to have. His first point of consideration is the limited information a digital image has. It is put together by pixels and the amount of these cannot change. Having this in mind the pictures discussed in this work shine in a different light. They seem to contain more information than the picture itself gives. The picture basically shows landscape, but the flag on the right side gives information about how the area is, where it is, and to whom it belongs. In my opinion this means, that digital photographs are not always reduced to the information they show, but that they can also contain additional facts that make different interpretations possible.

Another point Manovich argues about is, that the editing of images needs special knowledge, equipment and is time consuming. Today of course not all of this is the case anymore, as digital editing of images can be done very easy. He states, that “When we look at photographs we presume, unless we have some clear indication of the contrary, that they have not been reworked” (Manovich, 1995: 244). This cannot be said about digital modern time images anymore. Over the course of the last years advertising, TV and Film showed humanity, that pictures cannot be trusted anymore. Almost no cover-image of for example a beauty-magazine is unedited after the shooting. Seeing these issues in combination with the picture of the Monument Valley, it seems that the picture was changed as well. Several observers of the original suggested that the flag was added after the picture was taken, because it seems surreal and in the wrong place. If the picture would have been taken with an analog camera, no person would ever have suggested that in contained a fake element. This shows that the perception of images changed drastically from what Manovich thought it to be when he wrote his essay to how it is today.


Excerpt out of 11 pages


Modern Landscape Photography. The Opportunities of the Digital Revolution
University of Würzburg  (Neuphilologisches Institut)
Photography in America
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
1733 KB
Das Urheberrecht aller verwendeten Fotografien liegt beim Autor des Textes.
modern, landscape, photography, opportunities, digital, revolution
Quote paper
Maximilian Bauer (Author), 2014, Modern Landscape Photography. The Opportunities of the Digital Revolution, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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