Is Photography a Reflection of Reality or an Escape from It?
Photography, meaning “drawing with lights” in Greek, is an art as well science of capturing light and storing it on some medium. Photographs have been used for over a century now for capturing moments of mankind and things around him, although photography dates back to 4th century B.C. But since its use, arguments have fired up to know whether photography can reflect the truth, the reality or instead push us away from it. Photography is just another art where an artist puts his thoughts and imaginations on a canvas using his creativity. Hence photography may not show what the reality is, it shows how the photographer sees the world or he wants us to see the world.
Some people argue that photography involves mechanical processes that handle most of the work, so not much work is to be done by the photographer. Whatever is present in front of the lens is captured exactly onto the film and there is no scope for the image generated to show others than the reality presents at that moment. But what matters is how that photograph was taken. The lights, the colors, the angle of the photography and the frame captured create a story of their own. Photographer uses such aspects to create an interpretation of reality, how he sees it and not necessarily how it appeared to everybody else also present at that moment.
For instance, a photograph of a beautiful beach will not show the litter present behind the camera. One will admire the beauty of the beach but will never know the reality of the beach. This will instill a false belief about that beach into the mind of person who sees the photograph and he may never know the truth about it. Photographers not always want people to see the truth but see the beauty of their work. It may seem morally incorrect but it’s what they are supposed to do, take beautiful photographs and earn admiration for the same. But photographs, even used for recreational purpose can be misleading sometimes. Consider the image below. It takes a while to see the truth. It appears there is a convertible parked next to the van but in reality it’s just a car painted on the van and there is no convertible.
However, more serious issues arise when photographs are used to show reality events and are even sometimes used as evidence in court of law. After the invention of personal computers photographs can be easily manipulated even if there are already taken. Which in turn can be considered bending the truth or simply a lie. There have been many incidences in past where photographs have been faked or misinterpreted creating havoc situation. The best known example is the Reutersgate which involved digitally manipulated photographs taken by Adnan Hajj, freelance photographer who had worked for Reuters.
One of the photograph, captioned by Reuters as showing an Israeli F-16 fighter jet firing ground attack missiles during an air strike on Nabatiyeh, was digitally manipulated to show as if the F-16 firing missiles but actually deployed a single flare.
Many simpler attempts were also made by just giving false or misleading captions to otherwise real photographs that were taken at different time or place and used during the Lebanon war period. Consider the images below. First image was captioned “Journalists are shown by a Hizbollah guerrilla group the damage caused by Israeli attacks on a Hizbollah stronghold in southern Beirut, July 24 2006. (Adnan Hajj/Reuters).” But look at the next photo captioned as “A Lebanese woman looks at the sky as she walks past a building flattened during an overnight Israeli air raid on Beirut’s suburbs August 5, 2006. (Adnan Hajj/Reuters).” But a cursory glance shows that it’s the exact same destroyed buildings in both photos. If they were already destroyed on July 24, they couldn’t have been destroyed on August 5, especially since the damage is identical in both pictures. It’s quite obvious that photos of the same scene were re-released to make it appear as if Israeli bombing raids were continuously hitting Beirut, when in fact Reuters was just recycling the same damage over and over. Well it’s ironic how one image disproves another image.
This gets us thinking whether we should believe what we see or not. I think no, we should verify a photo before we jump to conclusions whenever it’s necessary and possible. Photographs can be a great source of entertainment and a form of art but when it comes to portray reality, it may not succeed all the time. Sometimes photographs can also create hyper reality which just exaggerates the reality and thus cannot be truth. Photography acts as a thin line between reality and fantasy. Shows what you want to see.
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Project Statement: “Frozen Light”
During the colder months I wander along the shore, among frozen crevices and tidal pools, observing the endless variations of the texture of ice, and the shapes and colors that lie beneath. Occasionally when light, temperature, terrain and time of day all coincide in just the right way, the ice blooms with a startling luminosity and richness of color, as if it were bathed in its own inner radiance. For me there is a hint of sadness in this fragile beauty, given the uncertain future of our changing climate. “Frozen Light” attempts to capture this illumination which reveals itself only in the darkest months of the year.
Project Statement: "Adagio"
One of the great mysteries in my life has been that, even when my heart is breaking from grief, I can still find moments of light and joy. A moment of sadness may be transformed into one of profound delight when I stop and immerse myself in the sound of the wind in the trees, the curve of a blade of grass, light shimmering on the ocean, or simply the sensations of breath itself. In the Adagio series, with petals floating and dancing through time, I celebrate such moments of joy-filled connection that have been so uplifting during difficult times.
Project Statement: "Flow"
In this series I explore the dramatic transitions of colour and form that occur from moment to moment in one small area of a fast-flowing tidal stream. As the waters ebb and flow, forms appear and shift as colours erupt and coalesce, in an endless play of organic movement. Using very fast shutter speeds, the undulating surface motion is captured, like a fleeting memory, as the water flows on. For me it is a poignant study of the momentary nature of time itself.
Project Statement: “Route 1”
Anyone who knows Maine also knows that one can spend many hours in a car. The Route 1 series initially emerged from this simple fact, but has since evolved into an ongoing body of work in which the act of moving from one place to another, be it by car or foot or other means, is crucial to the creation of the images.
Each image in this series is taken while in motion and is thus shaped by velocity, time, terrain, road surface and the camera’s shutter speed. While moving, I am forced in a split second to reduce passing scenery to its essential visual elements and as I press the shutter, I allow the complex motions of the vehicle or the body to accentuate the basic forms, colours and textures of nature.
Project Statement: "Unleaving"
In the waning days of autumn, after the wonderful parting burst of colour, I explored puddles and tidal pools where fallen leaves had landed. I expected to see fading and decay, but instead I found surprising and often subtle beauty, intensified all the more by the encroaching darkness of the evening. For me, these images conjure up wisps of memories of my mother and her decline into and through Alzheimer's where there too, as I watched the fading away, the softening of lines and the dissolution of realities, I also caught glimpses of her inner beauty shining in the darkness