A pond, a few rocks venturing out from the shoreline, and some wintry trees looking on. Fog, too, such that the far shore is no more than a whisper. But there's more to this image. What?
The photograph by itself was very good but not great, mostly dark grey on light grey. I felt there was more tale here than the photo by itself could tell. My initial efforts in Photoshop seemed promising, but never quite what I wanted or what I saw in my mind's eye. To me, this image should be the embodiment of a cold New England winter, all frosty and grey and lonely, with snow and fog rolling in. Depressing, some might say.
The solution I found was to layer on some texture. The textures I chose were like brush strokes in oil. Somehow, they worked magic on the image. The ice on the pond went from a featureless near-white to a rolling, sea-like light grey. The sky is similarly sea-like, but lighter. The far shore remains a whisper, wrapped in fog. On the near shore, icy trees lean in to observe.
So now you ask, is it any longer a photograph? Is it dishonest to layer on textures? Is the objective truth of the photo gone?
Let's take the last one first. A photograph is not objective truth. Colors shift, distances expand and contract, focus changes. I could give you two different photos of this pond, taken on the same day and from the same spot, and ask you, how far is it across the pond? Depending on my choice of lenses, your two answers might be very different. I have seen portraits of young people whose skin tones apparently border on purple. Or green. Or orange. So much for objective truth.
Is it a photograph? The answer is, I think it is, but to be honest, I don't care. Is toast still toast if I put butter on it, or must I now say "buttered toast"? Must I call my creation a "textured photograph"? If I used Photoshop to remove a branch from the scene, does the work become a "Photoshopped photograph"? We're getting into trouble here. Let's just call it a photograph.