Documentary School of Astrophotography

Founding Statement

Astrophotography, or the photographic observation of the Universe, has become one of the activities that stir the interest of most people in the ambit of astronomy. The growing enthusiasm of thousands of practitioners, both professionals and amateurs, the recent technological development, and the immense volume of information available on the Internet, have multiplied the overall interest in astrophotography during the last years.

Such amount of resources and information has had very positive effects on astronomical culture, and has contributed to improve knowledge of observing techniques, both visual and photographic. At the same time, however, it has given rise to considerable confusion on concepts and techniques, as happens in other specialties of photography, and particularly about the correct use, from an ethical point of view, of the tools and improvements that the digital era has put within reach of all astrophotographers.

In the time of chemical photography the processing resources were much more limited than they are today, although it was much easier to distinguish between fair and false works. Today, unfortunately, there are frauds in astrophotography, despite the fact that a majority of authors work with absolute honesty and don't manipulate their images unethically.

The below signers, conscious of the critical moment that this discipline is facing at present, want to contribute our point of view and ideas to help define what astrophotography is and what it should not be. We do this with a respectful, far from dogmatic attitude, but convinced that some conceptual approaches, as well as several image processing techniques and procedures, lead to alterations of the nature of the objects photographed that cannot be considered as part of astrophotography. We believe that astrophotography must preserve its documentary nature, as it has been doing historically. Along with providing transcendental scientific results, the documentary nature of astrophotography is fully compatible with the artistic vision that most astrophotographers have.

Astrophotography is not compatible, in our opinion, with image manipulations leading to generation of false information that is not contained in the original data. Some may think that such manipulations form part of a particular artistic vision, but we believe that they cannot be accepted as astrophotography. We consider that it is absolutely necessary to stay away from the idea, more and more widely accepted, that any procedure or technique can be accepted as valid in this discipline.

As signers of this founding statement of the Documentary School of Astrophotography, we consider the following fundamental principles:

1. Definition of Astrophotography

Astrophotography is, essentially, documentary photography of celestial objects: the astrophotographer takes a photograph of an object from the nature and transmits it to the spectator. Starting from this fundamental fact, the Documentary School bases its work on the transmission of information exclusively about the natural object photographed. Consequently, astrophotography is a form of graphical communication that allows us to transmit and divulge information about the celestial objects photographed.

2. The Composing Elements of Astrophotography

Astrophotography combines science, art and technology:

3. The Goals of Astrophotography

In the Documentary School we consider that astrophotography must be understood as a vehicle for the divulgation of science and knowledge on nature. For this reason, the astrophotographer has the responsibility to transmit knowledge to society. Astrophotography must be conceived as a tool for cultural development and to promote the respect of nature and environment.

In the Documentary School we consider that astrophotography must necessarily be performed as a means for personal growth, compelling the development of this discipline in its technical, technological and aesthetic facets. It is equally necessary to pursue the excellence, with the purpose to achieve the best possible results with the available resources, as well as the personal improvement in this discipline.

4. Image Processing

Image processing is the link between the acquired data and the spectator. For this reason, the astrophotographer plays the role of an interpreter of the data. This fact, along with the documentary nature of astrophotography, leads to this school's fundamental principle:

The astrophotographer must respect, above all, the acquired data and the nature of the objects photographed.

Image processing plays four main roles:

These roles will be performed through procedures satisfying the fundamental principle of the Documentary School. Since the extracted information depends on the applied processing, and because the image must produce an emotion in the spectator, image processing is an expressive means in itself. Any aesthetic theory arising from this necessity of expression must observe the fundamental principle of this school.

The Documentary School only accepts as valid image processing practices those procedures having a documentary basis. Documentary criteria are those intended to communicate some properties of the objects photographed, as part of nature.

The following procedures are expressly rejected, due to the fact that they don't respect the data and the information therein:

Signers (in alphabetical order):

Vicente Aupí
Juan Conejero
Jack Harvey
José Luis Lamadrid
Oriol Lehmkuhl
Steven Mazlin
Vicent Peris
Ignacio Rico
Ivette Rodríguez
Carlos Sonnenstein