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Honesty Is More Interesting Than Truth

This is a chapter from the book A Lesser Photographer.

Arguments ensue over whether all photographers are liars, or all photographs are lies.

What’s more interesting is the debate between “artists” who manipulate the hell out of their images and photographers who attempt to capture a scene as close to “as is” as possible, without boring the viewer.

There’s so much gray area in there that you could meter off it. But what’s great about it is the difference in the reaction of the viewer.

There’s a visceral reaction to “as is” photography. It deeply engages the viewer (see the rise in photojournalism-style wedding photography or the endless photojournalism manipulation controversies as examples). This isn’t limited to photography.

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 mistakes.

Why are we so emotionally connected to this fictional honesty? The audience loves a good constraint as much as the artist.