Recently, Steve McCurry was embroiled in a controversy regarding the use of Photoshop in his work. Many have weighed in on both sides of the argument, but now, McCurry himself has given a detailed response.
In the last few weeks, many of McCurry's works over the past decades have been found to have manipulations that extend beyond those allowable by standard journalistic practice. This has led some people to criticize him as misrepresenting the work, saying that his career and reputation as a photojournalist has created an expectation of a certain method of post-processing or lack thereof. On the other hand, many have argued that if the photos were not taken for a news organization, then McCurry was no more obligated to adhere to those standards than the rest of us. In a recent interview with TIME, McCurry gave the following statement:
I've always let my pictures do the talking, but now, I understand that people want me to describe the category into which I would put myself, and so, I would say that today, I am a visual storyteller... I understand that it's virtually impossible to assign me to a specific category or classification, but that's partly a function of working for 40 years and having a career which has evolved as media itself has changed.
This is very much in line with the arguments presented by many, but nonetheless, as more images with such manipulations were uncovered, the controversy sustained itself. Thus, McCurry has noted:
Going forward, I am committed to only using [Photoshop] in a minimal way, even for my own work taken on personal trips... Even though I felt that I could do what I wanted to my own pictures in an aesthetic and compositional sense, I now understand how confusing it must be for people who think I'm still a photojournalist.
Has the audience unfairly backed McCurry into a corner? Or is it right that he maintains these standards? Personally, I think the issue was somewhere in-between; a clearer delineation between what constituted work in a photojournalistic capacity and what was personal work free from the aforementioned standards may have obviated this entire ordeal before it started. What do you think?
Lead image by Flickr user John Ramspott, used under Creative Commons.