The lost art of photography

Tim Wells
4 min readMay 13, 2021

You could argue that in days past the pursuit of photography was about documenting what we see, capturing a moment as it happened to look back on later. You could argue there was a time when if you were to look at a photograph, you could trust that more or less that was an accurate representation of the scene at the time it was captured.

More and more it seems these days when I look at photographs I find myself wondering what it was actually like and how much of that photograph is reality and how much is artwork. I don’t like it that this question comes to mind more often than not but it seems that’s the way it is. But is it a technology thing or is it just the nature of photography for art?

Sunset in the field by Tim Wells

If you look back to the film days, especially to those photographers who would have their own darkroom and use it to develop their own photos.. even then there was a certain degree of manipulation of the images available. Different chemicals could change contrast levels, longer times exposed to those chemicals would have certain effects.

I’ll be honest, I don’t remember much of those times. I did a bit of shooting on film back in the day but never really spent much time in the darkroom myself. I understand though that how you treated the processing of the film in the darkroom had an effect on how the images turned out.

So can we really say back then what we saw was the truth? Certainly more so than with the digital manipulation available today but completely… no. It was much less likely to be significantly changed than what you find these days.

A double feature light show. Fireworks and Lightning. By Tim Wells

We have so many more techniques and abilities we can use these days to create images that just weren’t possible previously so is it cheating if we use those?

Back in the film days it wasn’t possible to take a series of images with different focus points and blend them into one like we do with focus stacking. It wasn’t possible to take photos at different exposures and create HDR images or stack multiple photos on top of each other and blend them together for creative effect.

Tim Wells

Self taught software developer and photographer.