Gearon's work and the attention it has received sets the stage for an interesting mental experiment. Imagine that instead of creating her multiple exposures haphazardly in-camera, Gearon's had created the same images using Photoshop. The final images would be exactly the same, but the method of creation would be different. How would this effect our understanding of the pictures?
We don't have to look very far for an answer. Thousands of such images have been created by, for example, Pedro Meyer
or Rajaram Sethuraman
These photographs may be visually entertaining but I don't think you'll find them at Philips de Pury.
Back in the pre-digital days the same effects were achieved by Uelsmann. Although he was a wizard in the darkroom, for me Uelsmann's work hasn't aged particularly well. His photos are about as interesting as listening to someone describe their dream last night. A fun story but I tend to find waking life more compelling.
So what's the difference with Gearon? Why should we treat her work differently?
To me, Gearon's photographs are the perfect example that process DOES matter. Her photographs are one thing with no supporting info, but when one learns how she made them they take on another dimension. You mean she made these by accident!? That's wonderful!
I don't think I'm alone in this viewpoint. Any time Gearon's images are shown in any format, it is always with a reference to Gearon's process. Process is important.
When I raised this exact point back in December it created shitstorm of comments. There are many many people out there who would disagree with me, who claim that only the image matters and not how it was arrived at. I will probably not change any minds with this post but to those people I would say consider the case of Tierney Gearon. Are her photographs the same as any Photoshopped collage? If the answer is no, then process matters.