Do photographs tell the truth?

We’re photographers. We know images aren’t real. Don’t we?

I mean, we know the image at right by Jerry Uelsmann (Untitled, 1991) doesn’t capture “the real”… logic tells us such a bizarre and implausible juxtaposition of object and situation must be a construction, right?

But what about “straight” images? Do they capture the real?

All images, after all, are constructions resulting from a range of authorial choices – decisions about camera angle, framing, cropping, focus, film stock, lighting, background, proximity, facial expressions and clothing, for example, all add to the meaning of an image.

Yet, despite their lack of objectivity, photographs are seen to have a special connection with the real, and are the standard against which the realism of all other images is measured.

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Colour or black and white? (part I)

above images ⓒ SWS

If I’m forced to choose, black and white images almost always win out for me, although I’ve posted the above example because I’m less sure here… I keep wavering!

I think Diana Eftaiha sums up the appeal of mono images well when she says:

Vibrant saturated colors can very easily steal the spotlight away from the more important elements of a particular image, while working within a more restricted palette means putting more emphasis on the true nature and value of a given image.

Black and white photographs often have more impact, especially in a world some may say is already over-saturated with colour. I think portraits in particular resonate more powerfully in mono, which adds a layer of complexity and timelessness to the subject. A black and white portrait seems to better convey the story of a person’s lived experience somehow.

For me, the following portraits from the Immediate Family series by Sally Mann, for example, just wouldn’t be as strong in colour…

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