Realism Plus

With the help of digital augmentation, John Fulton is enhancing the truth

In his work life, Atlanta, Georgia - based photographer John Fulton shoots ad work for clients such as Georgia Power, Eaton and Golf Pride. His images often bear a recognizable style: a colorwashed, desaturated look and apocalyptic imagery.

Off the clock, Fulton employs the same techniques in pursuit of his personal passion, documenting what he calls the "authenticity of the American South." Though he seeks out diverse subjects —from a progressive farmer raising grass - fed beef to participants in a rnilitia - tinged machine - gun festival in Kentucky —Fulton is always on the hunt for real people doing real things in natural spaces.

"Down in the South, especially in the rural areas, people are who they are without any pretensions," he says. "Ive never met people so comfortable in their own skins —and consequently so comfortable in front of a camera."

After growing up in Loveland, Colorado, Fulton studied photography at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, California, a program that offered strong training but whose cost/benefit ratio he ultimately found wanting.

"It was a hardcore commercial photography focus," Fulton says of his college program, "but it took doctor money to go there. And in realistic terms, I got more real - world skills in a year at my first jobs as an assistant and a retoucher than I did in three years in art school."

After the aforementioned job at a retouching house and assisting for a commercial firm, Fulton moved into architectural photography, co - launching a three - man firm in Savannah called Attic Fire, which pioneered a proprietary mix of hot lighting and composites to add an eye - catching glow to hotels and historical buildings.

Looking at his work, its clear Fulton has no qualms about extensively goosing his images with digital postproduction. So what of the purported pursuit of authenticity? Fulton sees no contradiction. "Im not trying to document the truth," he notes. "Im only interested in the end result."

In keeping with this ethos, he takes pains to incorporate authentic elements where he feels theyll matter. "Even shooting a stylized composite for Golf Pride, I make sure to hire real golfers rather than actors so the look is authentic, down to the way they walk and hold their clubs, even if the scene is something I set up," Fulton says. For him, the authentic lies in how the viewer sees the final product.

"Some photographers look down on photo manipulation, but all photography requires some sort of alteration, whether at the point of exposure, in the darkroom or in Photoshop," Fulton says. "For me, the way a photographer arrives at the end product is less important than the quality and the impact of the final image itself."

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