The Innate and Contemporary Truth Value of the Photographic Image
In Relation to Photographic Apparatus and Visual Perception
Name of Author
In this dissertation I looked at the relationship the photograph has with truth. I started by analysing the innate truth value of the photograph, then I linked that with contemporary society, looking at the analogue and digital image.
Why did you choose to write about the topic that you did?
I’ve been interested in contemporary image culture for a while, and how the image is so lauded in our society. Influenced by ideas of hyperrealism, I wanted to assess the truth value of the photograph. If society is built around images, what effect does that have, and do those images have the level of truth value that we assume they have?
What was the key thing that you learned from your topic/ writing process that you would like to share?
That the photograph truly does not have the innate truth value that we think it does, and the implications of that are very interesting.
What are some new thoughts and ideas which came about from learning about your topic -- What would you like to know more about?
Susan Sontag’s idea that “everything exists to end in a photograph” is really interesting. Do photographs exist as a consequence of experience, or do experiences exist as a consequence of photographs? How much of the world exists now so that it can be photographed? How much of the world have you tangibly experienced compared to how much you’ve experienced in photographs?
What is your favourite excerpt from your dissertation?
As McLuhan states, ”Media, by altering the environment, evoke in us unique ratios of sense perceptions. The extension of any one sense alters the way we think and act— the way we perceive the world”. How then, has digital photography, in all its pervasiveness and saturation, altered the way we see the world? Perception is, as mentioned in chapter three, not like the unblinking eye of the camera, but more malleable. As Jurgenson argues, “life is experienced as increasingly documentable, and perhaps also experienced in the service of its documentation”. We see this flip in the places of the image and the world, between the subject and the mediation. Our entire perception of the world becomes this search for mediation and sharing, “always with the newly accessible audience in mind”. The photograph is so embedded in the consciousness that sight itself becomes a search for potential mediation. The effects of this are predicted by Flusser in how it changes our lives, with the images we once created to be “maps” turned into “screens”, “until human being’s lives finally become a function of the images they create”; our experiences become a series of orchestrated photo-ops. Naturally, with a market of consumers whose perception is geared towards mediation, culture begins to bend to accommodate; one example of this is the current trend of art museums allowing photography. Once harshly derided for protection of the copyright and sensitivity of the art, as Vice President of exhibitions and collections at the National Building Museum in Washington DC, Cathy Frankel, explains; “it’s very rare that museums are no photos anymore— and that change has just been in the last five years”. To have a compulsion to photograph is, according to Sontag “to turn experience itself into a way of seeing”. What is seen increasingly is not the world shaping photographs, rather that “everything exists to end in a photograph”. Taking this idea further, philosopher Michel Serres suggests that now, “the informational world takes the place of the observed world”, to extent at which “sight looks blankly upon a world from which information has already fled”. Perhaps more concerning than the rise of the dematerialised image, is the rise of dematerialised information, leaving the physical world as a consequence.