tom chambers – prom



Prom Gown #3 by Tom Chambers


BURN will soon be featuring an essay by this artist. For this series, Mr. Chambers was influenced by Mexican religious art.

101 Responses to “tom chambers – prom”

  • I know my fashion obsessed buddy
    Karim will love this shot…
    Impressive… Loves it:-)

  • Isnt there an easier way to correct her posture? :o)

  • Jeff Wall finds Fashion. Surgical sensation, good stuff Tom.

  • dream song!….

    just spent some time watching your ‘films’…:)))…each gallery like a projection from our sleep-skulls….and weary grows the land, then aflame grows the mind…..

    gorgeous gorgeous, righteous stuff….an abacus of all….

    and i thought my childhood bed was stiff…but what a frickin’ window with a view ;)))))

    river run it through us…cant wait to see the essay….

    with mustafah and tom back to back, Burn is on fire!……..


  • yes, sure, an interesting image. tom’s got chops; burn’s aflame.

    however… there are any number of great (ok, good) blogs out there highlighting whomever — what makes it special that it’s here on “burn?”

    just another picture on another blog.

    an interview with tom, btw:

  • What makes it different for me, at least so far, is the participation of the artists being shown. Not a Q&A with the artist, but participation. Interactivity, it drives the online world… or will.

    Beautiful shot, by the way, great colors….

  • fair enough, jared.

    great 3 shots — in the interview linked above he talks about this composite.

  • oh, Tom. with all due respect – you are a master of _working_ spookiness. I am really looking forward to your essay.
    this one is real good. and spooky.

  • This intriguing image sent me directly to google where I clicked on the following link:

    I’ve now looked at every image in Tom’s galleries and read most of his artist statements and interviews. What a fascinating journey into the world of magic realism! But even though he creates photomontages, don’t assume Tom is a digital photog. No, to create the components for his photomontages, Tom uses medium format film cameras exclusively. And where each of our photos might take a fraction of a second to come into being, a work by Tom can take months from conception to completion.

    In me, this photo evokes reminders of the sacrificial nature of a girl passing from childhood into womanhood. It implies all that she must lose in order to gain the fullness that is to come. I find it to be poignant and deeply emotional. Of course it is exquisitely beautiful as well. That goes without saying.

    Thanks to Tom for daring to follow his own creative path, and thanks to DAH for pushing Burn into new territory…


  • Oh, to clarify, I said beautiful, not great. :)

  • JEFF J..

    i guess you have not been around to get the “whole picture” pun intended…we are trying to create a forum here for some original production and funding for grants to photographers (see under “dialogue” Visions 2009) and the Emerging Photographer Fund…sure, you might see material here that you could have seen somewhere else..but, maybe not…some of the work here was created just for BURN and more to come…stay tuned…or not…but, you are most welcomed to create work , show us work, create discussion, or just help us to get the funding to create a much needed new paradigm for today’s photographer…thanks for your comment…

    cheers, david

  • David I’m very glad you posted this image. I think this is the first real shift towards constructed photomontages on this forum.. how interesting. Totally new ground for me I must say.. so I only have initial thoughts and I’m very open and curious to how others see this image and photomontages in general. At first I was a bit jolted to see this because for me it’s a completely different medium and requires a different set of senses to appreciate. My gut reaction was to see it with suspicion, although with more thought and discussion I look forward to paying more appreciation the world of photomontages.

    Why was I jolted? Typically when I look on this site, or the shelves of photo books that I hold dear, I am looking at pictures in which the photographer thoughtfully and skillfully dances with the subject/scene/light. I am generally interested in the story that was taking place in front of the photographer at that time and how the photographer put him/herself in just that place and time with luck, tenacity, patience, skill, and relationship to capture a beautiful and/or telling image.

    Here, I don’t feel the ballet. I don’t feel the magic of photographing the fleeting moment where all the pieces were just right. Instead it’s constructed, directed, and produced. Again, that’s cool, just a new set of senses getting their footing here. :)

    Okay, so it’s different. This is the new incarnation of painting on canvas. It’s a new consideration for me. This stuff has been around a while, I’ve just never really considered it, as I will now.

    As for Tom shooting medium format film.. that’s all well and good, but I don’t think the images should be held in any higher regard because of that. They still look heavily photoshopped to me – which I could care less about, that’s not my point – but to dispel any confusion, once the film is scanned hi-res, it’s got about same potential for manipulation as a digital raw file. Manipulated film scan or manipulated digi file.. one doesn’t get more respect over the other from me.

    So Prom Gown #3 shows beautiful light and color and, perfectly executed and produced, the symbology is apparent and telling.. Not yet do I get an emotional reaction from it, though. I’ll keep looking and listening.

  • Lance :))))

    Good on you brother! :))))…i too was so so happy to see this image today…ironically a few clicks (hours) after Joe, Lassal and I had been writing about the idea of ‘constructed’ photography. I LOVE all photography and i have always had a very special place for ‘construction’ in images. it probably comes from my painting background, but i see all photography as a construction, all of it, it just is differentiated by WHEN that construction occurs: before (moment), of (camera), after (darkroom/photoshop), after-after (print, exhibition, book, online, projection, etc)…it is all good and nutrious.

    i also am so happy to see an image and a photographer that embraces PhotoShop here and is open about it. I have never understood all the hemming and hawing about the use of PS. It is not really any different then working in the darkroom (i know, i print in the darkroom, though increasingly, grow attached to PS since i have to scan my negatives). I know there is the ‘ethical’ challenge in PhotoJournalism (a different discussion) but i love that David has decided to showcase a photo and a photographer whose process involves actively construction/manipulation, cause it’s just more transparent language for what each of us does….I hope that work like Tom’s as well as other photographers who embrace the tool of PHotoShop will be enjoyed and embraced here. Having come from the art world (where the question of PS is not a concern at all) to the world of documentary work, I am so happy to see both word’s drinking at the same hacienda….its been a long time coming and im just so thrilled that the burn world mirrors the world of photography at large:

    whatever happens that sings out about this weird and beautifully fucked medium of photography…

    ok, some of my own heros in photography include the Russian Constructivists…..

    one of my hero’s Alexander Rodchenko. and of course Alexander Grinberg,

    which has continued to animate Russian contemporary photography (go figure why it’s an important part of my life ;))))))))) )…..

    a good beginning: (though before Photoshop)

    the key is that Burn has and continues to embrace the entirety of what is possible with photography within the context of a single magazine and a magazine constructed of dialogue :))))

    here here to all that’s shakin :)))


  • Was just appreciating the tone and mood and light of this image and was also inwardly nodding at Lance’s reaction, when my 7 year old neighbor friend looked over my shoulder at the image and said in one breath “Who is doing that?, Why is she doing that? Nobody is doing that. That would hurt.” Pretty close to my initial response!! It’s a photo that stops you in your tracks and makes you wonder and then come back to your senses about the real and surreal..

  • Viva la difference!

    I love this because its a completely constructed image that is NOT the blank, staring into the camera minimalist approach I have seen so much of when it comes to self conscious ‘art’ photography!

    Its fabulous to see another example of the diversity of photography- too often we get caught up in the whole concept that photojournalism/street photography is the quintessional ‘unguarded moment’ as the zenith of photographic practice but with the exception of a truly ‘spot news’ situation we all carefully edit our images to point in the direction we want them to anyway…

    Which to my mind is constructing the finished product as much as the image above- which is, after all, aesthetically very pleasing and while I probably don’t delve into the beauty and experience the sensusal pleasure of a Harvey image, or contemplate the girls ‘pain’ in an incredibly intense emotional way, like I do with a Nachtwey image, I do THINK about these things because of the strong symboligy in relation to the image.

    It does certainly work for me and I look forward to seeing the essay, wish I had time to look up the website… Burn is certainly a great magazine for bringing this artist work to attention!

  • I supposed the pictures here were all documental. It would be good know more about what mean this. The image is nice but i don’t know how to manage this. I wonder myself like Erica friend, why? who? Maybe i don’t know much about mexican religion.

  • I hear you LANCE!

    I attended an opening for Tom Chambers at Photo Eye in Santa Fe a couple of years ago and had exactly the reaction Lance did. Tom was in attendance and I made the point of talking to him to see if I could open my mind a bit to what he was doing. Told him that I was out looking for the things in real life that he was creating on the computer :))

    I am sorry to misquote him but Tom said something to me (more or less) along the lines that he has a “day job” and just did not have the time to go out and wait for stuff to happen in “real life.” That for him what works is imagining the scene the way he wants it and then creating that vision in the computer.Again, not an exact quote, that’s just the way I heard it…

    Bottom line for me is that digital art is a lovely art form. People like Maggie Taylor can put animal heads on people, etc…but it is certainly NOT documentary photography, not by a longshot. Is it self expression…yes I suppose and Tom is GREAT at what he does but for me this type of work is too easy. Not the technique…that is far from easy. It involves hours and hours and a great deal of talent but the part about seeing something that actually exists in the world and putting one’s own stamp on it is what photography is all about for me. I definitely wasn’t thinking burn would be about computer generated art but if you say it is, then it is!

  • i’m not digging this in the slightest.

    definitely not the kind of thing that i expected to see on Burn.

    if i wanted to look at this kind of work I would go to

  • While I’m always impressed with fine photoshop work, I had hoped Burn would be about photography…the real fraction of a second stuff. This just holds no interest to me at all here.

  • Hate to start the great debate, but you and Ben seem to have a pretty narrow view of photography if you consider documentary forms as the only version that you consider art.

    I think this photographers work is very good because its aesthetic amplifies his conceptual concerns, which as I said in my initial post may not give me a visceral response to the work but does give me a thought provoking one…

    I mean I see thousands of photos every week and without the aesthetic magnifying what the photographer is trying to say, its just all so much wallpaper…

  • Interesting…. I have to say that I have always been totally uninterested by any sort of photo montage, pictures created with photoshop. Somehow, the magic is not there for me. Magic for me comes from capturing a particular moment that only last 1/125s and will never happen again… The magic of capturing that “decisive moment”, whether a particular composition, juxtaposition, or expression on someone’s face or whatever else happens during that very short fractiom of time sets photography apart from other arts… Now clearly, I know that most afterwards will play with the light either on the computer or into the dark room but still, the essence of the photograph is that one unique moment captured by the photographer….

    Now, having said all this, I went to look at Tom Chmabers’ site (I did not know him) and clearly, Tom has an undisputable talent for what he does. I am in admiration of what he has composed, created iwith a lot of imagination and patience in the same way I can be in admiration of a great painting of an artist but, at least for me, this is not the same as capturing the magic of a moment. Art for sure, but not the photography that I like….



  • OK, I need to come out of the closet as a former (and maybe future) photomontage practitioner.

    For six months in 2007 all that interested me was the creation of composites. Some were totally abstract; others realistic; many were humorous. I used this form to make political/social statements as well as simple exercises in form/texture/mood. I worked in color and b&w. Every photo I took was made with an eye towards how it could be used in conjunction with other images.

    I’d taken a university course called Photoshop for Photographers and was totally hooked. It seemed a natural outgrowth of my years as a multimedia artist. To be honest I never imagined I’d go back to straight photography. But I did. And I’m sure my months of being free as a bird creatively impacted how I saw and took photos from then on. When I look at my current images for “Falling Into Place” I see a direct relationship to my photomontages, especially in what others have called my “looseness.”

    I wonder if those who have the most trouble seeing the value in work like Tom’s might find it helpful to try some photomontages themselves. Try walking in his shoes and see how they fit…


  • thanks for calling me narrow minded Lisa, oh and for putting words in my mouth… As far as I am aware, I don’t think I actually said:

    “i think documentary forms of photography are the only version that can be considered art”

    Yeah, I checked again. I definitely didn’t say that.

    If you want my honest opinion, the main reason that i don’t like this image (and the rest of the images that I have seen on his site) is simply that I have seen much better work in a similar vein from the likes of (for instance) Simen Johan.

    okay. now if i promise not to put words in your mouth Lisa, can you return me the favour?

  • I should weigh in at this point…

    I realized that posting my work on a site known for documentary photography was sticking my neck out a bit. My work can be classified as surrealism or magic realism and is best presented in fine art venues. I am not asking my work to be believable in any literal, representational way, but am asking it to be considered on an emotional level.

    Although I have the greatest respect for photojournalism or documentary photography, I choose to follow this path because it gives me the freedom to express my own personal vision. I work by visualizing and sketching the image first and then shooting the parts and pieces later. I enjoy building an image, rearranging the elements for composition, adjusting color… tearing it apart, reshooting and building it again. A cross between painting and photography if you will.

    I feel fortunate to be able to elicit these powerful responses, thank you! And thank you Burn for venturing into uncharted waters.

  • I am always surprised by this kind of images. In a pleasant way sometimes. Tom, I feel its great you have allowed to express yourself. Although, I have mixed feelings about digital manipulation when it comes to photography…I think you also help me think and push my envelope a little bit. I have seen some of Pedro Meyer’s work – -and it has also left me with mixed feelings…perhaps its the new digital era where things are happening so fast that its not easy to keep track of everything…
    ‘Indeed the great documentary medium has taken up a career in fiction’ – V. Goldberg

  • Lisa,
    I am adding another comment under what Eric said. It fits better there but I will second what Ben said…I did not say the world revolves around documentary photography or that it is the only form I consider to be art. I just said this was not that. Very simple and nothing to start a war over :))

    Read my next comment about the decisive moment and feel free to comment again.
    Thank goodness we have opinions about this work and don’t just blindly accept it!

  • What I am feeling is very much along the lines of what Eric said. I was having this conversation (with myself) all thru dinner and couldn’t wait to get home to write it down.

    Please think about this for a moment…

    There are some photographers who don’t believe in (straight) digital photography even, because there is no “negative” or original image. Well in the case of this type of photography, there is not an original MOMENT either.

    As Eric said:
    “The magic of capturing that “decisive moment”, whether a particular composition, juxtaposition, or expression on someone’s face or whatever else happens during that very short fractiom of time sets photography apart from other arts…”

    Call me narrow minded (Lisa) but I do prefer photography that is based on a REAL moment in time.

  • And I personally hope that Burn will continue to venture into uncharted waters. To my way of thinking what we are about here is fostering a vision broad enough to embrace as many ways of using a camera as can be imagined.

    For instance, I would certainly hope that if Harry Callahan were alive today, we’d have a place for his experimental images of Eleanor here on Burn.

  • My wife will love it! :)

    I have only one question: do you are author or every part of your work (horses, dogs)? Or you use some parts of agencies pictures?
    excellent! One of most the interesting I’ve seen last time.

  • are you author not do you. Isn’t it?
    ehhh… I think I will never speak english correctly.

  • ** this image immediately disturbed me… but in a powerful way.. as a woman.. ohhh.. yes.. real vs. surreal… ** Strong photo..

  • Oh c’mon Tom ;-)….
    U know “BURN”…, “Roadtrips”…
    It’s all about those “uncharted waters”!!!
    peace & hugs

  • Nope…
    Sorry… No you won’t..
    Neither will I!!!

  • Capa speaks Capa’s english so I can speak marcin’s english :)
    and Panos speaks swearing english :)

  • Hi Marcin !
    I think the same thing “I will to never speak english correctly.” We are 2!
    Best, audrey

  • It is an interesting and positive thing that a range of photographic styles are being given time and space on Burn, and I’m looking forward to seeing how things develop over the next few weeks; but I have to admit that this particular image leaves me cold.

    Also, when I look at the image I’m jolted a little by what appears to be a technical flaw in the montaging of the images: the angle of the light hitting the wooden structure doesn’t seem (to my eye) to match the angle of the light hitting the model herself. In addition, light across the background and foreground (the background and foreground upon which the other elements have been superimposed) appears to me much flatter than the light on either the model or the structure.

    I personally have no problem using Photoshop to improve a photograph, or bring out a certain element of an image – that is obviously what PS was created to do; but I do have a problem with Photoshop work that through either over-use or careless technique comes to dominate an image, taking me out of the “world” of the image and into the realm of its production (unless, of course, doing that is the deliberate intention of the work).

    The film ‘Titanic’ worked wonderfully well for many people because its incredibly extensive use of special effects never got in the way of its emotional story, and so suspension of disbelief, immersion in the imagined space, was possible. The story, of course, did not need to be very complex – just good enough to move from A to B and finally on to C. Many films fail, however, because no matter how pure and elementary their stories, their emotional hooks, may be, their SFX get in the way, preventing people from fully investing in their “worlds”.

    I can’t get invested in the world in this image: the technique is in the way of the story. And that’s a pity, as I am intrigued by the girl lying in the air on some wooden thing; and I am also keen to learn more about the source material, the Mexican religious art that at some point during the project infected the artist’s thought process. Links and the like would be excellent.

  • What an extraordinary shot to stumble upon first thing in the morning. It’s going to be stuck in my mind all day. Each time I drift from one topic to another inside my head, that shot will be there to dazzle me. This could be a strange day.

  • Marcin, it is clear from Tom Chambers’ web site that he is the sole author of all the componnts he uses in his photomontages.


  • Patricia

    It is almost obvious, but I would ask about shortcut anyway. In this kind photography there is always temptation. Especially in details.

  • Audrey

    The whole world are speaking own way of english. We are the biggest community on the world.
    The Ignorant English Speakers Community :)

    Anyway… maybe someone what to participate in some polish blog?
    Myśle, że znajdziemy nić porozumienia! :)

    peace for all

  • I can only speak three languages: hibernian english, the Queen’s english and American english. Hibernian is my native tongue.

  • One of the things I love about this community is the different ways that people communicate with english. It’s very interesting reading english by those for whom it’s not natural, so to speak. There’s an off kilter musicality to it. It should be celebrated.

  • Love the entire series on Tom´s website.

  • Weegee (Arthur Felig) was a master who would cut, bend stretch and burn his negatives. The more I engage in photography the more I rely on the digital darkroom to carry my images. While I appreciate the skill needed to make the above image, which is far beyond my own capacity in Photoshop, isn’t airbrushing better left to fashion magazines and T-shirts? Is it really where documentary photography, if that is what this is, should go? Sorry. But the quick answer for me is no.

    Also, I entirely agree with Gareth’s post above. As far as the content, I’ll wait to see more before making a judgment, though I must admit now that it’s difficult for me to enjoy this from the fantastic-plastic aesthetics.

  • Tom,
    Very interesting work and great to see something other then documentary, street and pj photography here.

  • :))

    Yeah Bob, we talked about it … Funny to have such an image here now.

    I am a little biased though. Probably no one here knows but I do a lot of product visualization for companies. One way of earning my money … And basically you “make” a “photo” of something somewhere that is completely fake. Usually the product does not yet exist nor does the surroundings. Because of time issues (I usually only have a day for these kind of jobs), you get it in 2D. So it is all composed in Photoshop/Painter.

    Other than with Tom’s work above, my work I would consider pure technique. I enjoy doing that enourmously, but it does give me a significant different pleasure than going out with the camera. Actually the pleasure of making these compositions is absolutley like the pleasure I had with drawing & painting. Very similar … although my paintings were more abstract. Guess it is because you start with a blank canvas and all is completely up to you. Sounds exciting … but actually I always found the whole process more than boring … Independently of what other people thought … I just got what I had in my mind … never more!

    I can only guess that I always found life “out there in the world” much more exciting because of the fact that it is unpredictable, which personally gives me more than to work 1 day to 1 month on an idea I had by myself. When there is no open parameter, nothing kicking me out of nowhere, I personally just feel like driving on rails … It does not please me more than on a technikal basis. That was the reason I quit painting after my first solo museum show. I had a pleased look around and then decided to move on. I personally never got enough out of it to justify the effort I put into it. Same, as I said, goes for the compositions … But there I get paid for – these are assignments – so it is something completely different. I have to imagine what a client would like to have and not what I would like to have … what makes it much more interesting still. It is a “service” I do in this case.

    This all just to explain my position here … Which is very personal.

    So yeah … I could slap me, but the first thing I noticed, like Gareth noted already, was the light not being consistent … The women is lit one way the “branches” another and the background yet differently. I could not help being disturbed by this so I actually thought I would not write about this image… It is very obvious that my job is getting into the way for me here. I apologize to Tom for that, because … well he could not care less :)

    As Tom said, he is not after being believable … although he could almost be with this image … There are others on his impressing website, that are much more surreal … They would make him more believable in not wanting to be believable :)

    But yeah, the mexican religious art … Really good … They always remind me the old egyptian paintings … You have the storytelling … the way things are depicted in the most recognizable way even if anatomy cries out loud … and obviously the symbolical meaning which lies behind.
    Russian Constructivism just partially overlapps this in my mind… But yeah … It is gordious!!! Mostly tiny collages… Amazing energy! We just had an exhibition here in Frankfurt that containes some of these images … I could have stolen them along with the Giacomelli …

    Getting on the wrong path here … :)))))

  • Oh … forgot to mention how wonderful it is, to find all of this here on BURN …!!
    DAH kept mentioning that he has an open mind for all kind of photography styles. If this is not believable by now, I do not know what is :)

  • “this image immediately disturbed me… but in a powerful way.. as a woman.. ohhh.. yes.. real vs. surreal… ** Strong photo..”

    You see, that’s the problem. It isn’t a strong photo. It isn’t a photo at all. I like different kinds of photography, but this isn’t photography. It may be created from a group of photos, but it certainly isn’t photography.

  • Ok, we’ve washed into the realm of art and fiction, so we can forget the rules associated with visual truth. We can also À la carte any of the rules associated with photography since with this implementation of art; well… photographic capture is just a bit player in a much larger cast of ‘make it happen’ artistic activities.

    once you’ve dumped the rules related to truth and dumped the rules related to photography you can begin to explore the only two aspects of this equation that matter. There is (1) artistic intent and there are (2) the activities that take place to make that intent happen; and it doesn’t matter if the result ends up on your monitor, in a magazine, or tattooed on your girlfriend’s boob, it’s all two-dimensional media as soon as you started cutting and pasting.

    So of course the activities that make artistic intent happen can be photographic, pure page layout, pure graphic design, or even pen and ink; nothing is off limits now that we’re talking about two-dimensional art as the intent and the result.

    So what’s the intent? What activities took place to produce the result? What intent and what activities are in the scope of Burn’s interest?

    What’s the general appetite for two-dimensional media these days over pure photography? How much of the paid-for-results are pure capture of a visual truth? How much of the paid-for-results are re-imagined fiction? Is Burn about two-dimensional media so long as it includes ‘capture’ somewhere in the artistic lifecycle? Is Burn about widespread commercially appealing two-dimensional media?

    How about considering the context of time to produce the result? How much was spent dreaming this art up? How much was spent with photographic ‘capture’ activities? How much was spent cutting and pasting or other predominately graphical design activities? If most of the time was spent cutting and pasting verses photographic capture, would Burn still be as interested in this two-dimensional art form?

    It’s not uncommon for an end result like this to be on the cover of a quality magazine, except it is more common that three people joined professions to create it. What if the artist ‘buys’ all the subject matter from a stock photography agency and only ‘assembles’ this piece of photographic-‘like’ art? Would Burn still be interested in the result? How about if they did do their own capture activities, but the capture was trivial in comparison to the cutting and pasting activities? Would Burn still be interested in this result?

    Ok, bare with me, I may seem like a suddenly started smoking crack while doing this next bit of typing.

    Soon the presentation of essays on Burn are going to become more complex; once we had clickable image changes, then smooth transition slideshows, and now we have shows augmented with music. It’s just a matter of time before essays on Burn include panning, zooming and voice-overs with music. Magnum is already there and has managed to make some pretty dull images look interesting using techniques that had nothing to do with photography. So if more time is spent on these non-photographic, multi-media activities to produce the ultimate visual result,… to produce a result that would be dull in comparison if it was just a clickable change of images, would Burn still be interested in that result?

    Ok, enough questions, my knee-jerk response to Tom’s very commercially valuable image is i wish it was not here on Burn. i stand by my initial and positive opinion of it: it is very good and very surgical and very sensational, but no offense Tom, if i want to see work like this, then like Ben mentioned, i’ll go over to deviant art, and since i never go there it’s a measure of my personal taste for this art, i say again, personal, but it can be summed up by this statement.

    For me, photography affirms reality, but does not explain it. Part of it’s strength lies in its ambiguity, its suggestiveness. – Alex Webb

    i too believe that a still image still offers an illusion in that you don’t know for sure what’s happened before it and you don’t know for sure what’s happened after it, but you know something has already happened by the time you see it and you have the luxury of looking at that image, contemplating that image, studying that image indefinitely for what it is, or indefinitely as a metaphor for something else.

    for this reason a still image will always have an unmatched strength against the flowing aspect of moving pictures and even written narratives, but…. only if that image actually carries the pedigree of authenticity; we simply need to believe that the image was not staged or we ‘will’ know what happened before (some one took a light reading) and we ‘will’ know what happened after (the model went back to his or her chair).

    and in the case of these montage images, it’s even more anti-illusionary for me as it’s a cutting and pasting exercise rather than a staged effort.

    that being said, maybe i do wish Burn was just about the results of predominantly photographic ‘capture activities’ and shunned ‘cutting and pasting’ efforts; but i appreciate that’s a naïve, almost juvenile way of thinking in this day and age. i would go so far to say that by not embracing Tom’s image above (to varying degrees depending on what you want to do with your photography).. but avoiding the ideas Tom employs might actually stunt your growth and your ability to survive in this industry.

    i know i always bang-on about this, but Darwin is alive and well with still photography, and where dinosaurs used to rule the world, so did pure still-photography, both for the same reason: there was no competition at the height of their rule.

    i mentioned already there were three professions to create a magazine cover. Is it such an impossible reality that in three years you will only survive in any of those roles because you can do well all three of them? Certainly those people will be the most marketable. How many magazine graphic designers of product media are taking their own pictures to reduce cost? How many brides are letting the guests take all the pictures only to have them assembled by a processing guru? And let’s not forget the purists, the John Vinck’s of the world, thank god they are still there, but even their pure P.J. images must compete with the prevailing presentation techniques, and thank gawd that Magnum has embraced them.

    luckily no one is shunning the multi-media extensions used to ‘make-happen’ their intent using some capture activities and loads of presentation activities. This is good; because we know that the better you are at both of these the better your work will compete in the growing appetite for multimedia.

    so i guess that’s my point, graphic designers and multi-media experts are going to own the keys to the castle for two-dimensional visual work (art or fact-based), prepare to pay them dearly or become one, but you will find it hard to compete without them in the future because the intent and the activities to implement that intent will be far wider than just capture. The writing’s already on the wall.

    and just so it doesn’t seem like my lack of interest in Tom’s image is just categorical, my second most admired photo essay, second only to Alessandra Sanguinett’s essay staring Guille and Belinda is ironically a ‘photo montage’, and even more ironic, it’s an essay incorporating just as much fantasy as reality, but i challenge anyone that is totally against photo montages to confirm that This Photo Essay by Kelli Connell doesn’t move you a teeny bit!

    Best Wishes Tom, you already know this, but you’ve surely got the skills to pay the bills for what the future will demand.

  • Joe,
    Just interested. Do you consider Loretta Lux’s work as commercial as well?

  • “I like different kinds of photography, but this isn’t photography. It may be created from a group of photos, but it certainly isn’t photography.”….

    La Trahison des Images…..

    oh my god…for once i am left in near silence…..”Ceci n’est pas une pipe”

    how to explain the inconsistancy of the light, how does one explain the inconsistancy of a dream, how does one argue that inconsistancy of light is an irelevancy in a image that comprises a construction of other images, and how does one find any photograph that has a consistancy of light, since light is difuse and is broken and scattered in every photograph as it makes it way across, around, through, reflected, covered, through a prism of all manner of things…anyone ever stand on a hill overlooking a valley, city, sea and notice how light (refracting through the air splays itself in myriad directions)…one wonders if we’re talking about photography at this point or how we have grown accustomed to manufactured photograph: what a photograph needs to look like (u remember all those photo classes we took, or the stuff we read in books first learning about harnessing light with a box)…

    hmmmm, and adams light was more ‘naturally’ consistent:

    and let’s no forget HCB Decisive Moment:

    to think that there is ever a specific moment that meets the countenance of this life…

    I am always amazed, stuppified really, when critique boils not down to: i dont like or feel or understand this (fair, legitimate, reasonable) photograph(y)…but instead, we scour our resources and the language of the work we like to justify why something is ‘not photography’…

    instead, we argue: i dont like this work because it fails my precepts, my aesthetic, my understanding of technique…the world is filled with tens of thousands of photographers who love Bresson and yet there was only want bresson, and there is a lifetime of moments, each of which is decisive, that go captured or lost….

    the world is there for whoever has the imagination to capture it, to dream upon it, to shuttle it, to let it sit inside as it reinvents itself anew….

    and all those digital photographs being made, which convert the properties of light into a a calculation of 1’s and 0’s aint photography either, i guess?…

    this work surely is not documentary or journalistic but it is photography, for all photography is only a very simple thing: to use the tools and mechanics of light to manufacture a image that survived past the original moment: life, or memory or idea or dream or thought or scent…

    ok, i’ll make it simple: i do not like every photograph in Tom’s galleries, and i think some of the sequences work better than others, for me, but i dont like most of my own work but try to see it for what it is: an extension of expression of life, of moments, of dreams and ideas….

    ce n’est pas une critique

  • JOE: :)))))))))

    kelli connell ROCKS…i’m a big big fan of her dreams, her ‘lives’ and her ‘siblings’ and ‘family’…she had a show here in Toronto for Contact a few years ago…..brilliant, intelligent, thoughtful PHOTOGRAPHY! :)))))

    wear that white hat tall :))))….good on u :))


  • Those readers who are disappointed that Burn is not the purely photojournalistic/documentary magazine they’d expected, might want to reread what editor/curator David Alan Harvey wrote in ‘about burn magazine:’

    “burn is born from an educational imperative and to bring strong photographic essays and powerful text to not only photographers, but to anyone fascinated by a visual and literary interpretation of our complex planet. Your interpretations may be either journalistic in nature or esoteric subjective pieces. I hold all artists in high regard. With me as editor/curator you need never think “what does he want or like?” I will push you to do your thing, not mine…

    “We will do something very special right here on burn. A collaboration between thee and me. Adventure. Always exploring new territory. With YOU as the authors.

    “Authors of your own destiny.”

  • Martin, commerciality considers the exchange of economic benefit for goods or services.

    Loretta is successful at collecting economic benefit for her photographs, so by that definition it seems that everyone should consider Loretta’s work to be of commercial value.

    A better question is if Loretta’s work is photography. Do you think they are photographs Martin?

  • you know what?

    i have a new project lined up, due to start next week. the discussions happening here on BURN (even if sometimes over the edge regarding “general politeness”), really make me think think much harder about my views on photography, my visual language, my style, my commitment, my ‘honesty’. they make me re-evaluate my opinions and make them stronger, better thought-through

    BURN makes me want to go and and shoot for BURN.

    and BURN makes me want to make it f*#%ing amazing.

    again, “caesar, morituri te salutant” sounds appropriate.

  • You are supporting “pan-everythingism,” where photography becomes anything and everything…and ultimately becomes nothing. What does it mean to someone when I say I’m a photographer? That I assemble images in photoshop? That I take whole cloth and cut it into pieces and re-assemble it to mirror my imagination? That I use a camera only to collect the parts? The result is art, of course, but it’s not a photograph. There are plenty of venues for the purely imaginary. I’m not sure the world needs another one.

  • james,

    what do you want “i am a photographer” to mean? “i have only pressed the shutter once”? or maybe “i have not “manipulated” it after (digital or analogue) development”? or maybe you mean to say that photography can only be inherently “realistic”, meaning can only depict wholly what actually exists?

    hmm… very thin ice here…

    or do you mean to say that it is the process that defines something being photography?

    i’m really intrigued, i’m not trying to bash you… i’d love you to elaborate on your point of view, if you wish to do so.



  • Am not taking issue with what you said here Cathy, but these days I, through my traditional leica film-based straight street shooting, keep asking myself if anything I am shooting is real..I am there making choices and sometimes causing an effect..I can’t help but feel that those moments on film are being created.


    :))) I know EXACTLY what you mean … This place here really does rise the stacks (gosh I have always longed for something like this!!) … One can never do it right for everybody, but one has to do it right for oneself, so one can stand by one’s work when the storm rises. Until now this was kind of a gut-thing for me. Now it is becoming more and more very active thinking. I, personally, like this a lot. It is about responsability. Environmental responsibility so to say :)

    While I painted, I had the oppinion that I needed at least 3 good reasons for everything I did to or on a painting, otherwise I should leave it out. Maybe that is why my paintings were so empty :) But ok, I cheated to … sometimes saying 1. balance 2. balance 3. balance … All a matter of priorities … :)

    BTW … dear BURN core team
    please come up with a “donate” button soon… People get used to things too quickly. And … I am running out of money :)

  • “pan-everytingism”…..and what is the world….what?….the issue of saying “I’m a photographer” is up to you, your understanding, your meaning, for you to determine…so, the day bresson put the leica away and began to paint again, he was what, no longer a photographer?…cameras do only that: collect/arrange parts…a photograph, even what appears to be your ‘traditional’ understanding of what a photograph is: a gossamer quilt of parts: each moment, 1/125th is an infintesmial moment of the entirety of the moments that past before your eye as you were clicking…venues for the imaginary: that would be our head…and dare i suggest, the world surrounding too….what i quarrel with you about is not that you dont find the photograph to your liking but that you assign it unworthy of being a photography, in fact, dictate to us what is a photograph…i still have not read what is a photograph to you…and how this differs in any real and legitimate way what tom’s work is….a photograph composed of photographs is not a photograph…i’d agree only if you allowed that a single image capture in a camera is not a photograph either…that’s the absurdty of your logic…why cant you simply say: i dont like this PhotoShop constructed stuff, it aint my bag….you know of course the shit that all the street guys swinging their leicas got from the ‘photographers’ of the world that used glass negatives or instant processing (in situ)….ironic isn’t it….emperor’s new clothes…my friend, we are all emperor’s masquerading behind our togas, what really is the need to say your robe is the only robe imaginable….

    and which magazine is the magazine about PHotography??:




    i do agree with you though about one thing, the world needs more than photography or photographic venues….infinitely more….


  • … and Dali speaks Salvadorian Dalian Spanish ..
    Ola from Los Angeles…

  • It’s not really anything very deep. I’m just concerned that if the definition of a photograph is broadened to include imaginary images created in photoshop, that a viewer will no longer be able to evaluate an image I hang in a gallery without each image being accompanied by a declaimer explaining how it was made. Sometimes real photos are messy, but created “photos” can be perfect. The featured photo could not exist in the “real world.” It is pure imagination. But it looks like a photo made in the camera to most people. How do my messy real world photos compete against perfect, impossible, created “photos.”

    I think that’s the slippery slope. It needs to be made clear to viewers what they are looking at. It is posted here without explanation.

  • Joe
    what about Gursky … ? Serious question.

    BTW there was manipualtion in old film photography too, even though there was no PS. They added fake skies, painted leaves on the negative … etc. etc. :)
    Have a look here …
    Did not get the name of the french names correctly… But it is quite interesting.

    And the little birdhouse I sent around for those I had an email of, has, if you look at it, two major mistakes:
    It was fairly dark where I made the photo, a little more than I needed to get the shadows I want – but I did not see the corner of the wall ending exaclty where the rooftop of the BH begins (it is a point & shoot – you do not see things EXACTLY as they will be photographed) … It would have been a question of moving to the side a little, not much only a tiny bit, but even while I remember trying to figure it out, the corner as you see it now just came up prominently when I raised the contrast … Well ok, I can still say I needed that for the layout because of the typo – even thought I know it is not the truth …

    BUT, unforgivable: the little – how you call it?! – thingy for the bird to sit on … The thing that is stuck under the hole (which in fact is a painted black dot)… it should stick out. It HAS to stick out … Instead it optically ended up “inside” of the house.
    I sent it around to some people yesterday … and then, later, … I sat down to manipulate the image to ease my pain :)

    As I could not simply redo the photograph because I am on the other part of town now, PS was the way to go. I prolonged the little piece of wood. It looks now as you would expect it to look and ends where it should end.

    BTW, David got the original version… without PS. Damn! :)

  • Sorry, … manipulation mentioned above connected to the link was on plate not on film …

  • I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out why Tom Chambers’ example of a beautifully constructed surrealistic photomontage is provoking such outrage. I think James Powers has given me a hint. In this world of digitally manipulated images, straight photographers–especially those who identify themselves as photojournalists–are afraid that no one will ever again trust that their images represent the unadulterated truth. Of course we all know that even straight photographers choose what truth to show, but still, what they see through their viewfinder is what you see in their print or image posted online. Whereas someone like Tom Chambers is showing only the truth of his vision.

    In my opinion, both Tom Chambers and James Powers are photographers; they just use the medium in different ways.

    When Joe implied that Tom was simply “cutting and pasting” I think he was ignoring the complex process that goes into the creation of every one of Tom Chambers’ works. If anything, we straight photogs are the ones who have it easy. Hell, we just makes our settings, look through the viewfinder, click the shutter and either print or post our photos on the web. To get an idea of what Tom Chambers goes through for every photomontage, check out his process statement at

    I think we’re talking about apples and oranges here. Each is a member of the fruit family even if you prefer one more than the other. I personally like both…


  • I was laying in bed this morning remembering all the conversations on road trip about whether or not it was okay to crop an image!!! We’ve come a long way from that for sure :))

    In that previous conversation I agreed with David, that FOR ME the discipline of creating the entire image in the camera was the ultimate goal. Have I cropped? Absolutely. Have I used photoshop? Definitely, but I would prefer not to NEED to.

    I remember the first time I heard the expression “I’ll fix it in photoshop.” It was at the Crow Fair (pow wow) in Montana. I was standing next to a woman who was photographing horses where there was a background filled with telephone poles. Time marches on and now “I’ll fix it in photoshop” has evolved to “I’ll CREATE it in photoshop.” FOR ME this work of Tom’s, along with the other links I posted above takes a great deal of talent and is very well done BUT where I draw the line is that it is COMPUTER BASED “IMAGINED” ART which I not my cup of tea. I prefer camera based photography that originates in a “real” moment in time. I believe they are two different animals. I’m not going to tell others they can’t like it or consider it to be photography…but I don’t.

  • Joe,
    I’m pretty sure that most artists or photographers don’t think about the money before or when producing a succesful body of work. However I’m pretty sure they are happy that they are making money and why shouldn’t they? I don’t think we can call all photographs that are selling for high prices commercial photographs because once they were created or at the start of the artists/photographers career they didn’t have the value. Just because a Nachtwey image is valuable I can’t call it commercial. Of course in a way it is, but not in the same way as an image in a Coke commercial. So I don’t think artists or photographers think much about the money or the images commercial value. HOWEVER and unfortunately the galleries do. But of course in a way I totally understand them.
    Regarding Loretta Lux.. I like her work and they are not photographs, they are two photographs in one ;) I think it’s art and don’t feel the need to label it as this or that, but partly the medium is photography, because cameras and photographs are used.


  • If one paid attention to the mean of photography and the etymology of the word we can’t discuss that the work of Tom are included in photography. In my personal view i don’t like use this term for those works, maybe because i grown viewing some photography that have an inherent relation with the reality, with the life. But for other person, for Tom, there is life in it. I can’t see it, i have not emotion. I don´t understand why a girl put in this position, what means this position. Without the denoted meaning i only have the connoted and i can´t found something that moves me. Is like a poem, you don´t have to understand, you have to feel. You got it or no. Hope you understand my english and, just in case, i am not trying to put outrage feelings here. I only trying to digest and learn. Welcome Tom

  • I understand what you are saying Erica but regardless of any “manipulation” on your part, you are still recording SOMETHING on film. Something is HAPPENING in time. For whatever reason, that is important to me…or at least I prefer it.

    Reminds me of something else I want to say…will post it below. Thanks.

  • fair enough james…i hear u on the ‘messy photos’ bit…just wait to you see my messy and messed up essay…all made with cameras (35mm, holga, diana, pinhole and lomo) and film (trix) and scanned negatives (some printed)..i think the issue about competition is a slippery slope too, the way i abide that is NOT to compete…actually, as digital technology and glass and PhotoShop have improved and often changed the look of imagery, i find myself returning to much less perfection…the magic of the moment, what i bring to the moment…u’ll seen soon, i think…it’s all a mess, and like u (i think), i prefer the ‘dirty’ photograph to the ‘clean’ one…i think we all just need to think is this: each of us does what we do and we send it out into the world and once that happens there is little we can do with it…like our children…i know i’ll catch flack for my essay (my work has always been critiqued at stupid or crass or not-photography or without technique), but all we can do is just do the work and let the cards scatter where they may…

    i’ve enjoyed the chat…i hope u didnt take any of my bombastic tirades as personal…its all silly in light of what happens in the world, and i tend to be undiplomatic….

    all we have is the work and the way we live and maybe the 2 reflect one another to some weird degree…


  • Erica’s comment just reminded me of one last thing…

    NOTHING EVER HAPPENED is the title of a book written about my spiritual teacher.
    It seems an appropriate expression for this type of art as well.

    Just because nothing ever happened doesn’t mean the image can’t be appreciated for what it is.
    It also doesn’t mean Tom isn’t a really nice guy…from what I recall, he is. As well as being a good sport for allowing us to have this conversation about his image. Great that we can express our opinions here and hopefully learn a thing or two from each other. For me this helps clarify what I like about photography and why I like it.

  • ha. this thin line between photography and visual arts is indeed very thin :)))

    i mean, what if i were to take a perfect 6×9 “analogue” shot of a surrealistic painting by dali?

    think about it: real photograph, but totally unreal subject in the painting… but the painting does exist, it is real.

    or what if i were joel-peter witkin… his work is something you won’t come across in real life.

    i don’t think you can decide something to be photography or not, depending on the process(es) involved. i know us humans like to categorize everything, but i think saying:

    “if photoshop used more than x percent, then not photography”

    is not really hitting the nail on the head.

    i might be wrong here, but doesn’t it just seem too simplistic to categorize in this way?

  • Hi Marcin,
    Yes, I shoot all the elements for each image. I shot the background for this image in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone Park. Splicing a background and foreground shot together for better depth of field. The sticks and girl were photographed in Virginia. Up until this year I used a medium format Mamiya Pro TL (film) but I recently bought a digital Nikon D-300. Film, scanning and processing costs became too expensive. Thanks.

  • When an image stops me…that’s enough for me….that’s why I love the way Eggleston responds when somebody makes all these complicated and imaginary questions and explanations about his images..

    I just love photography in any possible dimension as much as I love all kinds of music and art… but what I love more, is when people dare to do something different that’s why Ilove Tom’s work (since I’ve seen it for the first time in Photo Eye gallery)….beautiful.

  • Easy Patricia, ;-)

    with the exception of someone insinuating their peers are narrow minded, i don’t see anything unhealthy in this discussion. it’s an exploration of something contentious and all the energy for the most part is sincere, no? and there’s been loads of energy, yes?

    just yesterday we were toying with the concept of intent verse truth regarding Mustafah’s processing, so it seems an intuitive leap with this image. i honestly think David posting this image next to Mustafah’s discussion was like throwing a red-rag to the bull. i was holding my breadth for Stupid’s opinion as it was going to be gloves-off for sure if Stupid had an opinion.

    as far as this whole debate of… is it a ‘photograph’ or is it ‘two-dimensional art’ is interesting, but stops being conclusive after you’ve taken the first two steps (and of course i’m generalising, but i hope people get the drift):

    (1) ’How’ you plan to ‘collect light’ … How being things like perspective, focal length, shutter speed, aperture, quality of glass, etc.


    (2) ’What’ you plan to collect the light with … This light sensor, be it analogue or digital will typically behave a certain way based on the manufacture/chemistry of that sensor and capture a prescribed output of image for a given input of light.

    for a given decision to step one and step two you will likely get repeatable and predicable results regardless of what artists performed these steps or what spectator was viewing the output of these steps and some might consider these two steps to capture the truth of light and the cradle to grave of making a photograph.

    after that you go into a world ‘without’ such an objective algorithm and it doesn’t matter if you decide to use expired film, develop your negs in kryptonite , or print your images on tree bark, anything you do now is a rendering decision and there is nothing to say you are still working with a photograph or just visual art, is there? that’s a real question?

    i guess this grey area of intent and implementation will make it harder for people that don’t want their audience to think they have stretched this ‘base-truth’ too far, it’s not an unfair reaction to stretching the truth unless it’s well disclosed. But since most people now think that most of the images we now see are digitally remastered, it’s maybe too late for disclosures? When was the last time you bought a ticket to the concert and they disclosed they would be lip-syncking while they danced… hmmmm

    anways, it seems my ‘cutting and pasting’… ‘test’ is what incited you the most Patricia. Make no mistake about it, i’ve not reduce this activity down to cutting and pasting, i just chose that activity because of all the grey area of this topic, that step seems the most irrefutable to occur here and the step most foreign to the concept of photography. If it forced the topic, then i’m glad, i don’t appoligise for that, but it wasn’t to incite a riot, just discussion.

  • One more comment…images are not created only for photographers….common viewers just know if they liked or not….they don’t make any analysis about it…they don’t know about techniques, photoshop or if the image is digital or film and the best part is that they don’t care either….they just like or dislike the result…and most of the time they don’t even know what makes the image great or bad in their criteria…

    I guess that this is why the first advice that you receive (from the experts) when you start collecting photography is “buy what you like”.

  • “and most of the time they don’t even know what makes the image great or bad in their criteria…”

    but doesn’t that mean that you remain on the surface, and to be able to explain why or why not gets you to a deeper level, to an understanding of what you see and of yourself?

  • there’s some irony to what you say Martin :-) because in-practice you are correct, but in-theory you should not be so correct!

    professional artists have bills and hunger like the rest of us, so it would suggest they do care if their investment in a work of art will result in some bill-paying benefit.

    but alas, it seems we can go along way with just the romance of being an artist, so yes, commerciality does seam to stay concealed until the work is done, maybe ;-)

  • Tom, I immediately thought of an American Indian funeral rite when I saw your photograph; the kind where the body of the deceased is left to the elements.

    You have certainly opened a debate about what is “real” photography and what is not. Montage and photoshop are not my personal favorites; especially if it is not immediately obvious that the image has been manipulated. Your example here is certainly very well done and I understand and respect your stance: such work is somehow closer to writing in my mind than to photography and there is nothing wrong with that; you have something to say and you have chosen your medium.

    Personally, I’m with Lance in that I want to capture the fleeting, human condition, moments that will never happen again. E.g as much as I respect the landscape photographer I just can’t pursue the genre with any enthusiasm as I always feel that someone else could stand next to me and take the same photograph, or come to the same location next week and produce something similar to my efforts. Nevertheless the issue of manipulation is still relevant to documentary photographers: perhaps even more so.

    Joe has mentioned a few times that he personally sees some of the documentary photographs that have been shown here as too over-processed. When reading his comments I am reminded of the work of W Eugene Smith, a Master of the photographic essay and traditional B&W darkroom technique. When looking at Mustafah’s website yesterday I was struck by the similarity of one of his photographs “Patagonia Cowboys, photo number six” to Gene Smith’s photograph “Japan, Minamata Bay Fishermen. 1971” (see it on the Magnum website). Anyone who has seen his Minamata photograph “Tomoko In The Bath” (now, I believe, withdrawn from print at the request of Tomoko’s family) has witnessed the raw power of a Master photographer and printer at work. Through the darkroom techniques of burning, dodging and bleaching with ferricyanide he was able to impart to the viewer the visual and emotional response that he wanted them to see and feel.

    We regard such work as examples of printing at the highest level but tend to consider similar digital work as “manipulation”. I’m not saying that this is what Joe stated: he was more concerned that the techniques presented were not, perhaps, of a sufficient quality as to be believable (I hope I’m not putting words into your mouth, Joe).

    Today’s photographer has at his disposal a vast array of digital techniques. This brings both freedom of expression and responsibility; particularly to the documentary photographer.

    The whole issue of how an essay should be presented is very complex. The photographer must show the truth of a situation but must be free to use techniques that he or she feels are appropriate and which aid the objective of informing the viewer. How much technique is too much technique? Only the photographer can decide; but I do believe that he / she should find their own “voice” – their own visual signature. Take your time and make sure that it is you and not just today’s fashion.

    Best wishes Tom,

    Mike R.

    Joe, I’d be interested to read your feelings with regard to Jonas Bendiksen’s exhibition “The Places We Live” which consists of re-creations of a number of slum dwellings complete with inhabitants (see it a Magnum). For me, it’s still straight photojournalism / documentary photography. He’s pushing the boundaries in terms of presentation but I’d be happy to see such work at Burn. I suppose it all comes down to intention.


  • Hola Eva,
    4 or 5 years ago I was very active as a painter (photography made me quit!)…and it was very funny to hear the gallery owner inventing all these personal and “deep” stories about one of my paitings while trying to sell it…I was in shock…For me, sometimes there’s no explanation or “level” or any story behind… it’s just what it is…

    What I was trying to say is that if you just show Tom’s image to one of your friends..(one that is not a photographer) that person probably will only tell tell you ‘I like it” or “I don’t like it”….and if he or she likes it, probably it will be for a reason that’s far away from the artist’s intention.

    I think that an image could be really good for someone and bad for another….depending on what connection exists between the image and the viewer at that moment…but at the end.. I think it’s about that result,…that first impression….wha it provoques to you..

    Of course I love an image more when I learn where it comes from…That’s why I love Leibovitz image from lennon (after learned that it was done 5 hours before he was shot)…that’s why I love Sally Mann (after learned how brave she was of doing her children’s work after being accused of child’s pornography)….but I don’t love or respect and image more or less because it was done with digital, medium format, a Leica M6,
    or on Photoshopt…maybe I’ll not do it myself that way…but I really respect the work the same.



    might be worth having a look at “retouching – case studies”.


  • Arnold Newman’s shot of composer Igor Stravisky was manipulated because it was cropped….and that image is all about composition (the original one without the cropping is just another image)….maybe it was not Photoshop but it was manipulated and that is what makes that image great.


  • before reacting predictably to the ‘debate’ above I would like to comment on the image.
    I have no emotional response to this. It is a very well made image that has had a lot of thought put into its conception and execution. The execution is well done. I read this as a metaphor of sorts for the’ rite of passage’ to which the dress refers. The passing from one state to another. childhood/adulthood, innocence/knowing, safety/risk …whatever you like really. I have no problem whatsoever with its integrity or lack of [depending which side of the divide you reside] and I believe my reaction to it would not change were I to know that the whole thing was faithfully set up and rendered on film and presented unretouched. As i said first off, I have no emotional response to this image, further it is not a type of image that i find myself magnetic to. It has though, as much right to exist, and indeed to be ‘here’, as any other i have seen. And the artist/photographer/insert favorite damm with faint praise, should be respected for making his vision concrete and releasing it to the world, rather than condemmed for daring to move past an [always imaginary] line.

  • To weigh in, I’ve been contemplating staging some images for a project I’m working on at Uni. I see staging and this kind of photoshoppery as being basically the same. I could raise all sorts of objections to this based on some misguided notion of photographic purity, but the real reason I don’t want to get involved in staging or extensive photoshop creation is that when it comes down to my *vision*, I don’t trust it. If I was given complete free reign I’d probably end up producing something trite, overdone and uninteresting.

    I see a camera as a kind of safeguard. A set of rules that restrict what I create, and through those restrictions my output becomes more valid and interesting than if I had freedom to produce *anything*. That’s why I’m a photographer, and not a painter.

  • Online communication is all too open to misinterpretation, don’t you think, Joe? If I implied that I was objecting to the “contentious” nature of this wonderful discussion, that was not my intent. Nor was I implying my peers were “narrow-minded.” Hardly. This is a very important discussion, one that is bringing up lots of strongly-held opinions about an essential issue–ie., “What are the perimeters of photography today?”–and that, to my way of thinking, is very healthy indeed. In fact it is EXACTLY what many of us had hoped would happen here on Burn. BRAVO BURN!!!


  • Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  • OK Ben I would prefer if you kept your adverserial tone to yourself.

    And take a word of your own advice and re-check what I wrote

    “Hate to start the great debate, but you and Ben seem to have a pretty narrow view of photography if you consider documentary forms as the only version that you consider art.”

    How did that become

    “thanks for calling me narrow minded Lisa, oh and for putting words in my mouth… As far as I am aware, I don’t think I actually said:

    “i think documentary forms of photography are the only version that can be considered art”

    Yeah, I checked again. I definitely didn’t say that.”

    You obviously didn’t check very well because I didn’t write it either.

    I am simply stating an opinion and if you had actually read what I said without immediately doing a knee jerk you can see that I proffered a reason for this as well.

    Because I actually read carefully and comprehend most of what is written here in English I will also say that the second half of your reply seems somewhat more balanced.

    Your tone towards me however is illconcieved and rude and to quote the words of a wiser person than me,

    ‘Whatever the problem is in your head, it isn’t me”

    Cathy I will read your next comment of course.

  • Cathy as you will note in my previous reply to your last comment NO WHERE did I call you or Ben narrow minded.

    I said

    ‘Hate to start the great debate, but you and Ben seem to have a pretty narrow view of photography if you consider documentary forms as the only version that you consider art.’

    How does that turn into accusing you of narrow mindedness?

    Please DO NOT misquote me. It pisses me off.

  • I like this idea expressed by Silas. Is it similar to what Robert Frost referred to in his quote about ‘playing tennis without a net’?! I think Tom’s image is extremely well realised (and I’m envious of his strong vision), but to re-iterate what others here have stated more eloquently, the fact that it’s not a recording of a single moment in time takes away some of its appeal for me. I’d have the same sort of feeling if it turned out that Capa’s Death of a Loyalist Soldier was staged (though this would obviously be a more extreme case as Tom has in no way hidden how his image was created).

    I’m glad it’s been posted here, however, as reading through the discussion pushes me to try and define my own rules about what I would like my photos to be. It’s always good to get your expectations challenged!

    All the best,

  • Excuse me Lisa, it was Ben who used the words “narrow minded” you only used the words “narrow view.” Is there such a big difference between the two expressions that YOU should be pissed off? Seeing that I did not get pissed off by what you said in the first place you might want to just drop it!

  • It’s so cool that Tom Chambers is on Burn! I never woulda thunk it!

    I’ve been a fan of Tom’s for a number of years now, after a random Google search of photographers in Richmond led me to his site. I really fell in love with his images, mainly because they reach deep into the symbolism of the unconscious and reveal things that we might not see in waking life, but which nonetheless speak to a “reality” deep within us. I always imagined Tom waking up in the middle of the night, writing down a dream, and then bringing that dream into reality through photomontage…it inspired me to do the same, and I have begun keeping a little journal of dream-ideas, images that, if I ever get around to making them, will probably be posed instead of superimposed, but still, his work inspired me to think of making images in a different way, which is always good.

    It’s certainly breaking the whole Burn thing wide open to have Tom’s work on this site, but I welcome it. To me, looking at work like Tom’s, or like my alltime fave Robert Parke-Harrison’s, is like staring into a pool of the collective unconscious. As photographers we are generally driven to look outside of ourselves, to see and interpret the world in a particular way. But the images of the imagination are, and have always been, central to the tradition of art and picture-making, and they tell us just as much about ourselves and our world as any street photo. And having Tom’s work here certainly raises the bar for sheer aesthetic quality, which to my mind is also a good thing.

  • cooooool. i always find past intentions to be very indicative of future intentions, so you should always find my intentions favourable Patricia :-)

  • Hi Mike,

    I’m only sure of one thing after these last few days: I’m more confused than ever about what i’m sure about.

    The things i’ve seen and the things that people like you have written have made me rethink my views to such an extent that i find it really hard to see thinks so objectively.

    It’s a painful feeling for me, but my best boss always said, if you’re not a bit anxious, then you’re not at all learning something :-) I’ll check out J.B’s work now that i feel i’ve grown a different set of eyes!

    I do know that this dialogue has already impacted my capture activities in my current project, so something is going on.

    Cheers Mike,


  • Carlos, guess I wasn’t clear with what I wanted to express. I think it’s not that important, as a viewer, to know what exactly the photographer wanted to tell, or how a picture is made or why, as long as it speaks, as long as it kicks something off in the viewer (except perhaps for straight documentary, but the above picture for sure is all but docu). I find it interesting to discover what a photograph can achieve, be it as a viewer of others pictures, be it as a picturetaker myself. To put in thoughts the ‘why’ a picture works (why I like or dislike it, if you want) helps me understand better not only what I’m seeing, but also myself, as opposed to only consume photography.

    Saluti ;)

  • I find it interesting to discover what a photograph can achieve, be it as a viewer of others pictures, be it as a picturetaker myself -Eva

    I find that sentence to describe the most compelling reason to participate with this community; if you only want to look at worthy pictures you may miss one of the greatest benefit of burn; which is the deep exploration of the dynamics of imagery (in the past I would have said photographs ;-)

  • Personally whilst I can admire and appreciate the technicalities and vision that goes into a montage, I don’t like them, I don’t like feeling that I’m being fooled in some way, I want it to be something that really was, however it might be portrayed.
    (BTW, I initially didn’t clock on that it was a montage, I guess I thought the supports had been removed,in the same way as taylor-wood’s ropes were in her suspension series, so technically this is very well done,though I speak as someone who doesn’t know how to use layers).

    Ultimately although this is a nice production, (call me cold hearted), I don’t pick up any emotion or stirring of thoughts from this and that’s what I want from art.

  • Hey Chris, Goethe said ‘Be bold, because in boldness there is greatness’

    An open heart speaks a volume…

  • Whether or not an artwork stirs your emotions is entirely subjective. For my part, I like this image a lot. I found it startling first, then intriguing – it made me want to learn who made it, why it was made, what it means to the artist, what it means to me.

    I don’t have a problem with it being a montage, because really, aren’t we always being fooled by art? By that I mean: doesn’t art exist to fool us into thinking, feeling and responding in ways that wouldn’t ordinarily be available in reality, even if it happens to draw directly from real life (as traditional or “pure” photography does)?

    Of course, the viewer has to be complicit in the deception. But if allowing yourself to be fooled means opening yourself up to new combinations of imagery, new combinations of thought, and yes, new combinations of feeling, then surely that’s no bad thing.

    Thanks Burn!

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