About Greg Kieckhefer
I have been taking photographs of things for a couple decades now, although the business itself is a more recent development. As a photographer, I am entirely self-taught, which is an inane way of saying that I have learned extensively from other people.
I'm most captivated by what I'd clumsily call "useful" images: shots that communicate something important to the viewer, or pique the interest enough to prompt further investigation. Many of these, in my experience, fall under the documentary heading.
For the rest, I tend to shoot structure and form -- architecture and landscape are key foci, but equally important are the ways in which people fit into the lines drawn around them.
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A few words on ethics. Public appreciation of photography hinges on a fine balance between wonderment and credulity: too mundane and the eye is bored, too magical and the brain bucks at the perceived deception. The former is simply passed over, while the latter, particularly in the Instagram age, is disdained as "photoshopping".
Let me begin by saying that #nofilter is a meaningless concept, and so much the better. Even at its most rigorously journalistic, photography is not the mere documentation of people, events, or photons. That is what Google Street View is for: photographing everything. To photograph something, one must make decisions, and the more concentrated the effort, the more conscious decisions to be made.
In the film era, post-exposure choices were made in the darkroom; in the digital, similar choices are applied in processing software. Many such programs, combined with raw data captured in a modern digital camera, are astonishingly powerful at transforming the mundane into the magical.
They are also, to varying degrees of efficacy, built into every smartphone and DSLR in existence, which makes the distinction between #nofilter and #photoshopped a simple one of awareness.
Images have value which is not simply artistic in nature. The visual medium is so critical to our engagement with the world that photographic falsehoods presented as reality induce revulsion and vitriol with remarkable potency. In order to navigate this delicate line, every photographer must find and adhere to his own limits, so here are mine:
Documentary images are more sacrosanct than purely artful ones, and thus subject to a higher standard of integrity. For such work, I follow the industry rule of thumb: no pixels added or subtracted. The frame may be cropped to isolate the intended subject, but not to exclude relevant elements from view. It may have exposure adjustments applied, but never to black out informative detail.
All other images go by a "nothing added" policy: a distracting twig may be removed, or an exposure silhouetted for artistic effect, but if it's in the frame, it was there, no exceptions. On the very rare occasion that I publish a composite image, I do so for purely technical reasons, such as focus stacking or panorama stitching. My sole purpose is to provide a better image, and never to deceive my audience.