10 comments on “Photographs are Lies

  1. Very true, phiotigraphy can always only be an interpretation of reality by the photographer. Or, with the right hints bs the photographer, an interpretation by the viewer!

    But you certainly got one thing very wrong: those Leica lenses do have that 3D look…. must have it at that price! 😉

  2. Another intelligent and thought provoking piece. The major advantage we have as photographers is that photographs are a capture of one composition at one moment in time. The viewer has nothing outside of this (aside from their own assumptions, as you mentioned). Which gives us great potential and power to present reality more as we want it to be seen, not necessarily how it actually was.

    So yes, lies, but ones we can craft into the most beautiful and emotive shapes…

    • Thanks for the kind words, Dan. It’s certainly true that photographers shape their work to fit their own purposes, but there are some photographers and many viewers who mistakenly believe that there is some sort of truth inherent in photographs. I would suggest that this view is incorrect, except on an entirely personal level.

      • I wonder how much comes from the media culture we’re in, where many publications and sources hold up photographic images as the unequivocal truth? For example, a film star photographed in an embrace with someone other than their partner, which could and probably is completely innocent, innocuous and a fleeting moment, but that moment captured and given a dubious headline suddenly becomes something altogether different to what it was. So the public at large “trust” photographs as always showing the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

        • It goes back further than that. Capa staged some combat shots in Spain (forgetting for a moment the infamous “Falling Soldier” controversy, see “The Mexican Suitcase” for details – seeing a whole roll of negatives in sequence demonstrates it pretty clearly) for political purposes; plenty of others have done the same, manipulating one thing or another to show what they want how they want. Photography makes lying easy, as people are predisposed to believe what they see because of its close adherence to their own visual reality. As I’ve noted before, questioning requires active critical thinking, and few people are so inclined.

          • I wonder why so many seem to hold the saying “the camera never lies” as such an unshakeable truth? Perhaps it should be the camera always lies…

            • It’s the unfailing belief of viewers in the camera never lying that allows photographers to continue to lie effectively. P.T. Barnum had it right: “There’s a sucker born every minute” and “Never give a sucker an even break.”

  3. Nice article and is what I deal with. Reality as much as I can. Tired of Photoshop and hdr.I use minimal PS. Just to adjust what I would in a darkroom print.I do as much in camera as. Possible

    • Certainly, post-processing is a significant source of the manipulation one sees in photos today, but it’s hardly the only one. There’s plenty of lying to be done in the camera, and indeed plenty was and is done with film cameras. As noted at the end of the piece, I think it’s more a matter of how good a liar you aspire to be than anything else.

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