You can only photograph what’s there, I think we agree on that. Not what’s in your phantasy. Some photographers have photographed “scenes from their phantasies” that they had to construct before these could be photographed. And as a black and white film photographer I’m not even thinking of the “artistic” horrors of extreme photoshop manipulation… The constructing part – be it arranging people and things, or putting together things to suggest a non-existing reality – is in fact introducing another art form like performance or sculpture in its widest sense, then simply putting it on film. The photographer, in all his freedom [to quote William Klein: “anything goes”], nevertheless should realize this, so he isn’t fooled into believing such photography is the real “art photography”. The real “art” in photography is in my opinion in the elevation of the image from its purely representational “reality” level to a higher (non-anecdotal) symbolic function, which could be enigmatic or even of a metaphysical nature.
On one of the house parties a visitor came up to me with an “understanding” grin and shouted in my ear (because of the loud music): “I was watching you, and I see what you’re doing, you’re only photographing the beautiful girls!” He seemed to be rather proud of this observation, which in fact said more about him than about my photography; as usual the observer only sees what he expects. Of course I did not avoid the beautiful girls, I like to include them in my photographs whenever it is opportune. That certainly was no problem as there were so many, but what really kept me occupied was on a different level as I was trying to read the intricate patterns of behavior, trying to see the subtle signals, the symbolism, the body language. I was busy understanding these people and everything going on, trying to make sense of the shapes in the dark and the flashing lights, even sorting out my emotional reactions while exposing film after film, constantly checking my gear amidst the crowd. I realized I could never adequately explain, no use trying, so I gave him the thumbs up.