Photography and truth – The relationship between them

Photography and truth

Two days ago I read some articles published on MOMA website. This one kept my attention, it is related to an event called “Forum on Contemporary Photography” toke place on Thursday, March 17, 2011. Martha Rosler, invited speakers, raised some interesting questions related to relationship between photography and truth. It seams me quite interesting and I can not resist to express my humble thought on the subject. Here below you can find the questions and my personal answers. My two cents about that:

Martha Rosler questions:

  1. I would like to start by asking how we conceive of the relationship between photography and truth. Even without engaging in metaphysical speculation, can we speak of photography making any claim to truth today?
  2. And, if not, can we then say that this amounts to the truth of photography? How much of this is a kind of professional requirement and how much is grounded in everyday life? In other words, is our skepticism of photographic truth a professional requirement – a necessary showing of humility or of professional distance – or just the inevitable result of practical knowledge, of our knowing how to create and manipulate images?

Original post published on MOMA website:

Here below my short answers:

  1. Truth does not exist (cheap philosophy, I know but…), I think that what truly exists is the perception that everyone has regarding reality. This perception is one of the truths whether we observe reality or a simple photography. Photography is real and true for what it represents, of course, but the meaning derives from it can have a thousand facets depending on the culture and life experiences of each individual observer.
  2. Does the truth of photography exist? Reductio ad absurdum (indirect proof ?): if it really exist, it would mean that photography has its own truth and has to be only one, but images have to be interpreted before giving us meaning. What happen in most cases, multiple interpretations could exist and since the truth has to be one, the truth of photography can not exist as far as I concern.

Out of topic: Photography has undergone a radical change in the last 40 years. It is moving from something of niche to something to mass, from a naked and raw reality to an indecent manipulation of images. Some of them are excessive, caustic and nauseating at the same time. Maybe for that reason, both today and in a future “vision”, photography is coming back to a more authentic version.

This phenomenon is quite evident and demonstrated today. Look at the slow but constant return to analogue photography by many authors and photographers. For example, look at the extremely clean and genuine images that we find more and more frequent on the Internet. Analog or digital, art photographers are moving towards more direct, impromptu images, real images of real life. They can be crude, flat, sometimes rather banal and always subjected to criticism by photography’s technocrats, but still remain images that fascinate us for their being “imperfects”.

Here below Seiichi Furuya’s pictures of his wife’s suicide taken by him and published in his photobook Mémoires 1984-1987 (original source of the image and related articles:

seiichifuruya, memories, suicide

How much are these images chronicle? How much art? What do you feel watching these shots? Are we sure there is only one truth? How many people are really interested in the truth?


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