The photography is dead – long live the photographer


First the good news: The photography has lost its trustworthyness, because the digital technology has made it obvious to anybody that every photopgraphy can be manipulated.

10 jun 1998 // design / illustration
And then the bad news: We are being told that actually the possibility of computer manipulation it self killed the reliability. And thus tend to maintain the illusion of the reliable photography.
Well, yes and here you are: one thousandth, even as much as one sixtieth second with the truth, nothing past, nothing since. Even though the exposal time were longer in the beginning, the truth is short. But reliable?
The danish author H.C.Andersen set up his own portraits – he should be seen in profile – and nowadays we hardly recognize him en face. A soldier in the spanish civil war shows his I’m-being-shot-stunt on several negatives. And a czech comrade vanish from the official photographies after he mysteriously jumps out of the window.
Every picture has always potentially been a fake. The photography is dead, it’s a trustworthy as a stone. If we watch a picture of a two year old child who picks up paving stone, nobody would connect this and the same stone behind the broken glass of the bank. Ceci n’est pas une pipe. On the other hand, if the picture shows a young squatter who weighs the paving stone in the hand, well, then we have the story. But not necessarily reliable.
On a meeting some years ago, when the photographer had just begun to fear for the electronic treatment of their pictures, the danish photographer Henrik Saxgren stressed out that the reliability af the photography didn’t matter. Most important is the trustworthy of the photographer himself.
If you rely in the photographer, the writer or the neighbor’s wife – whoever tells you a story – then the story may be reliable. The picture may tell you a story, but it better be a good one.
The picture of the bicycle messenger that cycles on the narrow bridge between two oil tanks, might as well have been manipulated, it would still be a good picture. The soldier in the spanish civil war is still a hell of a picture: you may get shot in a war! Not necessarily dead and gone, that’s not what the picture tells, although you might say: this is a man who dies for a just cause.
So let’s return to the good news: Long live the photography that carries a story, not as documentation rather than association.
Torben Wilhelmsen
Details of various importance on graphics, web and communication

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