I sent a series of eight photographs to the International Photography Award, to the category Special/Special Effects, and won an Honorable Mention Award. You can see all eight photographs here, but you can also see the series in the original IPA page, here.
The practice of multiple exposure photography is not new. I used this technique myself with positive slide films about 20 years ago with my SLR Canon (see my post on triple exposure moon eclipse here). However, at the digital era we can easily use Photoshop to make composites of individually selected photographs and with a much greater artistic freedom. Do we really need in camera multiple exposure photography?
I can point at two main reasons that can keep us away from such Photoshop manipulations: Necessity and Arrogance. I personally do not like either, but those were indeed my reasons.
Arrogance comes from the statement: “Look, no hands!” In other words: “I am so good, I can do marvelous photography artworks with no Photoshop!” I admit, feeling I really know what I am doing, makes it a really tempting reason. However, I have no doubt I can do an equally or a better job with Photoshop, at least in the many incidences where the in camera techniques failed me. And they did, time after time. So, why insisting on in camera double exposure?
There can be a simple and honest answer to that, which is that it gives me an instantaneous result, and therefore an immediate satisfaction. However, when I do art, that should not stop me from doing a better job by working harder. I therefore fall back, as a last resort, to the necessity excuse, which is the rules set by photography contests.
Most photography contests do not allow for excessive post processing manipulations. However, they are largely satisfied if you give them a raw file that matches the final image. This policy follows the old conservative photography school that sticks with the Code of Ethics of visual journalists. This code is certainly justified for news and documentary photography, meant to tell a story as it really happened. We all know this can’t be fully achieved because a photograph can only capture a section of the visual truth in time and in space, which is selected by the photographer. Yet, that’s the goal.
However, another goal in photography is making the photos artistic, i.e., with a certain aesthetic value, and even more importantly, appeal to certain emotions.
Old school photographers take pride in sticking with the “no hands” strategy, yet making their photographs art. On the other hand, contemporary photographers take pride in their control of the modern darkroom, the computer, to make art of photography, no less than some of the best film photographers earned their legacy by mastering the chemical darkroom techniques.
My opposite worlds double exposure shooting method was my attempt to make a compromise. It allowed me to enter the Special Effect category in IPA, and won me an honorable mention award. These photos should have not been assigned to the strict Digitally Manipulated category (where I won another honorable mention award), because they can be produced on film, or something that is very similar to them (film double exposure photographs are nearly identical to digital double exposure photographs if one uses the ‘additive’ double exposure option on the DSLR). This flexibility, which allows such photographs to be accepted as photographs rather than as photography based art was my ‘necessity’ excuse. I have no regret. Necessity had forced me to explore and enjoy the great potential of the in camera double exposure technique, and make the best of it to create art, my way.