The Trolley

Sunday, April 21, 1996

Our subject this week is a century old open air streetcar gingerly being lifted onto the tracks of our main strasse, Market Street. This endeavor is a part of an ongoing project the city of San Francisco is wisely sponsoring, namely, the procurement and restoration of a dozen or so colorful antique trolleys culled from around the world. The placement of this particular car took hours of painstaking travail to get the wheels onto the tracks without doing damage.

Vistas that might seem interesting in real life are always a challenge for the photographer to depict. While I was shooting the trolley I realized I had work ahead of me in order to create an interesting image equal to the impact of my own encounter with this one of a kind relic. Without a clear plan ahead I sat down with "MacAttack," my trusty computer, and I browsed through several frames. I found parts of several that were interesting but couldn't find one that had it all. I was reminded of the shoot itself, hoping that the subjects would move here and there, do this and that so they would form an interesting composition. Well, they didn't and there was no way I was going to ask these guys to pose. The bane of the photo-journalist is waiting and hoping for something to happen and then it doesn't. So, why not combine a few of these interesting elements into one frame? Why not indeed. This notion itself of digital finger-painting spurned me on and gave me fresh energy. But is this Kosher?

Digitally altering an image to make it more appealing might trigger ethical issues. To wit: how should the photographer address the addition or subtraction of objects if, in its final form, the image appears to be real? Do we owe it to the public to post the facts each and every time we alter an image? This might be the appropriate time for you to take this moment and see the evolution of this image. You will notice that I actually took the initiative and added those other people from several frames. For example, you might notice that the same workman who's wearing a yellow raincoat appears twice in the same image. Unless the photograph is clearly represented as a piece of objective photo journalism, if there is such a thing in the first place, then I think it's the call of the individual artist if he wants to reveal exactly how his images were created in the first place. If anyone cares to respond to this issue I would like to hear from you. Perhaps I'll post the best of these ideas in a future column.

Speaking of columns, I am the subject of one by writer/artist Jon Warren Lentz.
This opus will hit the streets on May 1 between the covers of Photo Metro Magazine.

If you'd care to read Jon's column click...

* Note: This edition of "My Week" was powered by the music of Django Reinhardt & Stephan Grapelli.

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