Last week when I featured Vint Falken's handy guide for using Photoshop with Second Life images, I described her as an "image maker". This provoked a stern reply from Vint, who prefers to be known as an "SL photographer". She has a compelling argument for that title: Residents who use Photoshop to create textures for SL clothing are called "fashion designers", Residents who arrange 3D blocks together are called "builders", while Residents who rotate their avatar around a cylinder are called "strippers". "[I]t is only rightful," she concludes, "that you refer to those who make the biggest part of their virtual income out of taking portrait shots of avatars, as 'photographers'."
I'm not totally convinced. Photographs, after all, are created by exposed light hitting a film or data strip. That doesn't happen in Second Life. And while I think it's fair to say that an image which is captured "raw" from SL is very similar to a real world photograph (I discuss that here), it's also possible to subjectively manipulate the world's appearance in a way that's totally different. (When an RL photographer needs more light, he can't just move the sun where he wants it.)
What's more, many SL images are drastically altered in programs like Photoshop. A lot of real world artists use photographs as their medium, staging them in fictional narrative scenes, say, or even painting on top the actual photo, and because of that very process, they're not called photographers-- they're called artists. It's why I call Residents who contribute to my New World Tableau series as "Residents who've turned SL screenshots into a new art form."
So that's my case. But again, Vint makes a strong one herself, and so I launched the survey above-- vote by the 18th, and discuss below. Let's see what the collective opinion is, and go from there. If there's a decisive majority in either direction, I'll probably cede to the democratic will, at least in some instances.
Survey image credit: VintFalken.com.