Truth is Stranger (and More Interesting) Than Fiction

The first time I heard the phrase, “photographers are liars,” I was intrigued to learn more and possibly start a fight. The theory goes: since a photographer creates an image from his/her point of view, anyone else viewing the image will not get an accurate depiction of the scene from their own point of view.

While that’s true, arguments continue to ensue over whether that means all photographers are liars, or all photographs are lies. That kind of philosophical debate is better saved for procrastinating photographers or the classroom.

What’s more interesting is the debate between “artists” who deliberately photoshop the hell out of their images and don’t necessarily consider themselves traditional photographers, and photographers who attempt to capture a scene as close to “as is” as possible without boring the viewer.

There’s so much grey area in there, you could meter off it. But what’s great about it, is the difference in the emotional reaction of the viewer. For some reason, there’s a visceral reaction to the “as is” photography that deeply engages the viewer (see the rise in photojournalism-style wedding photography or the endless photo contest controversies as examples). This isn’t limited to photography, though.

When Rage Against the Machine released their groundbreaking debut album, the liner notes informed the listener, “No samples, keyboards or synthesizers used in the making of this recording.”

Any movie “based on a true story” is analyzed to death to discover the imperfections. Don’t even consider making a civil war movie without making sure you’ve captured the exact stitching used in the uniforms of a particular regiment, or you can write off a large segment of your viewership.

Why are we so emotionally connected to this (philosophically) fictional truth? I don’t know, but I believe it’s insight we can all use to become more engaging.