jeff lewis, landscape artist


A word on digital processing and the "visual"

One of the most common questions I get about my work is, "Is that real? Or Photoshop?"

Let me be extremely clear.

I am a landscape artist. I do not care about "rules" of photography. I do not "mess with nature". I create

I am not a photographer who publishes final images that are straight out of the camera. That kind of work is not interesting to me. Being a journalist would hinder my ability to fully express myself. If you are searching for photojournalism, you will not find it here. 

The term "photograph" fails to accurately describe the vast majority of modern camera art. My work is no exception. I refer to my images as visuals.  A visual may not always meet strict criteria for a photographIt is camera art. 

As an artist, I don't find it exciting to release ten images from the same sunrise, each featuring one highlight or moment. I prefer to portray my vision in a single visual. This may require blending together images with varying exposures, focal points, perspectives, and times. For example, I may capture birds, wave motion, and sunset color in separate files from the same evening, then merge the best parts of each image into a visual that portrays my vision of the scene. The techniques I use in Photoshop are nothing that couldn't have been done in the darkroom -- they're now just much more accessible and precise. 

Photography, much more so than any other art form, is anchored in reality, as a camera depicts an actual experience in some way (often telling lies of its own!). This is not important to the result, but rather to the process. I enjoy the challenge of seeking the best conditions in the field, and find myself far more inspired to create when I am in such situations. 

In an increasingly digital age where classic darkroom techniques are resurfacing in applications like Photoshop, those who insist that a visual is "unnatural"  or "fake" because it has been digitally enhanced or altered are rendering themselves obsolete. This portfolio contains many of my own artistic visions, some subtle, some more surreal. 

My art will lie to you. But my descriptions will not. I might say nothing about my process, but I will not lie about it. This is crucial to my integrity as an artist. 

So, if your question is, "Is that edited?" -- the answer is "of course", but you're asking the wrong question. 

Happy exploring, and may the light be with you!


When Two Worlds Collide: Art vs. Social Media



Debates continue to rage within the social media photography community, over issues like compositional ownership and what amounts of post-processing are acceptable. Occasionally the pot boils over, then briefly returns to simmering, only to boil over again in the coming weeks. 

If I released a cover of your song, of course I’d credit you. Why don’t photographers do the same? Shouldn’t they?

Similarly, how is it fair to a photographer who runs their business by creating honest photographs, or does some blending to compensate for camera limitations, but doesn’t drop in skies from other days – when someone else can just drop their sky in and get more attention? It’s not fair, right?

Remember: this is social media. This is business. This is a society that worships likes, comments, and dollars.

Photography isn’t any of those. Photography is art. What are the rules in art? There aren’t any. Who are we to impose our personal beliefs and limitations on others? If I say one thing is OK, but something else isn’t, who am I to make the rules for someone else?

Both sides are right, really. But it’s the approach that determines the opinion.

The real, underlying problem is when one tries to put all photographers on a level playing field on social media, while everyone is taking different kinds and amounts of steroids. This is a world (a bubble, if you will) where all work is the same -- “photography” -- and competes for likes, favorites, comments, and other forms of attention. Money may be involved, too. Success is typically defined by the amount of attention an image gets. In a social media world, it absolutely isn’t fair if your honest image, which you worked hard for, gets 100 likes, while someone drops a sky over the same scene in 10 minutes and gets 1000 likes. And it isn’t fair if your fresh image, which you worked hard to scout for, gets 100 likes, while someone else copies your composition, doesn’t credit you, and gets 1000 likes.

But wait a second – are we talking about photography, the art, or are we talking about social media? Those are different!

If you insert a sky from halfway around the world, you have obviously taken steroids. If you move the contrast slider or add a tone curve, you have also taken steroids. And if you use a single long exposure to blur moving water, you, too, have taken steroids.

“But what I do is different,” you say. “I stretch reality, but it’s believable. It’s natural. It’s not fake. It's not like that.”

Time for a reality check. What the hell are you talking about? Of course your work is fake. You altered the raw file that came out of your camera, which didn’t represent reality in the first place. And who cares?

Social media cares, and rightfully so. Because it isn’t fair to have everyone play the game using different kinds of steroids on a level playing field.

But we have to understand something here. Social media does not promote art. The web promotes competing for attention and business, and by rewarding replication of trending topics, it ends up suppressing creativity as much as it fosters it. That’s one of the reasons why I recently stopped posting my images on social media, and just keep them to my website.

Interestingly, since I’ve stopped posting on social media, I’ve noticed myself doing new kinds of experimentation that I wouldn’t have done before. Why? Because I don’t have to prove to anyone that it’s real, original, or worthy of their like or comment. I don’t have to brace myself for comments from trolls and self-proclaimed experts. I don’t have to weather the storm of photographers defending “their” comps. I simply don’t have to give a hoot what anyone else thinks. It’s not like I’m trying to use the image to get 1000 likes, to draw attention to my work, to drive traffic to my workshops page. I’m back to making art. And I enjoy that. I still have personal guidelines, merely because those describe the creative process I find most inspiring, but… really, once you remove the competition and comparison, who cares?

Seriously, who cares?

Ah, right – social media cares. Artists couldn’t care less.


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