A Certain Alchemy
by Keith Carter
University of Texas Press
There is something simple and magical about selective focusing.
A Certain Alchemy, a 2008 book by Keith Carter, embodies everything to do with the tilt-and-shift technique which has been quite a rage in iPhone-world for a while now, especially after the not-too-easy-to-execute method became a breeze with technology.
In the past, this approach is usually done with a medium if not large format camera, which allows planes to be ‘manipulated’ so that selected areas of an image can be out of focus. It can also be achieved with specialised and therefore expensive tilt-and-shift lenses with a DSLR.
By so doing, it achieves several things. For a start, ‘mystery’ is introduced when you can roughly make out what is there but not quite. Second, it helps to draw attention to certain parts of an image. Mostly, at least for me, it has a very dream-like quality which I like.
But that would be too simplistic as the image done in such a way needs to be looked at in totality for it to be fully appreciated. Ironical? Not if you respect that an artist must retain the rights to decide what’s in and what’s out.
Also, the technical bit is easy but deciding what kind of situations warrants such a treatment is much harder.
I don’t think about what Carter uses or used to create his masterpieces because that should not be the point.