13 August 2008

Meet Me at the IHOP ~ Errol Morris

This is a useful set of conversations at The New York Times. One of Morris' follow up comments runs a follows:
The "term “fauxtography,” of course, suggests that there is something “true” about photography, at least photography that isn’t posed or Photoshopped. And in recent years, the mainstream press has embraced this orthodox view. The principle is straightforward. Zero tolerance. Allow no digital manipulation. No posing. If a photographer uses any one of a variety of Photoshop tools, fire him."
This strikes me as a reasonable characterization of the naive view of photographic "truth." What do I mean by "naive?" ~ No posing? What about Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother" or Walker Evans' "Allie Mae Boroughs?" Neither used photo shop, both posed their subjects. And those are just two of the most prominent examples. You can come up with lots of others. The basic problem here has to do with the notion that photography (at least in documentary style) has to do with reporting truth and that truth can be grasped in some correspondence or representational mode. This seems to me an incredibly naive assumption.

But what happens if we move away from this naive view? What if we focus less on "truth" and more on the differential uses for which photographers make images and the perhaps even more diverse uses to which others might put the images photographers make? I have addressed this issue here in various contexts ~ e.g., [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]. How do we differentiate legitimate or justified uses from those that are not? Are we driven, by the (to my mind correct) recognition that we do things with photography, that we use it for various purposes, to the cynical view that, as instruments, the images we make are nothing but weapons?

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