Saturday, July 30, 2016

Photography is Truth - Is it?

Indian Bloggers

This statement rests on the fact that there is one 'truth' which can be reached, comprehended. Therein lies the fallacy of the statement. Although the context in which Godard put it must have been more challenging, and revolutionary (something I cannot cover in this post), let us focus on just the statement itself.

What is photography? To put it simply, it is a 'picture' taken of something - some object, or some person. In other words, it is a 'representation' of that thing or that person. 

When we speak of 'representation', we have already moved one step away from what we understand as 'reality'. Representation can be one part of truth. but probably not the whole truth, assuming that there is something called Truth. (I assume it because truth for me might not be truth for you.)

So, the context of the representation becomes important.

The context of the photograph becomes important. 

If we remove it from that context, the representation, or the truth that it represents will become irrelevant.

Consider photographing motherhood. Advertisers will hail motherhood as a period of celebration, and complete happiness. The photographs that will represent motherhood will probably show a calm and composed mother with a calm and composed child. But that is just one aspect of motherhood. This representation will hide the other 'truths' about motherhood too - the physical pain, the mental exhaustion, the bouts of depression many suffer from, the colic babies, the sleepless nights. 

Consider photographs of soldiers fighting in a war. Each warring army will represent their side as 'true', as 'correct'. But that representation will alter if the opposing army were to take the task of portraying their enemy.

Consider your own photographs. Consider your 'selfies'. Is that you reflected in that picture? Or is that you 'constructed' in accordance with certain 'shared meanings' in a society. (It would be helpful here to read Stuart Hall's essay on the politics of representation and views of post-structuralists.)

When we consider a photograph to represent reality or truth, we fail to understand that meaning circulates in a given context. To uproot it from that context would alter its meaning significantly.
Photographs are a means of constructing and imparting a certain sense of knowledge but that knowledge may just be only a part of the whole reality.

Meaning changes as perspective changes. Since a photograph's perspective is crucial to the making of its meaning, its meaning will change too with the shift in perspective.

As Ansel Adams rightly said, "You don't take a photograph. You make it."

What is your say on this? Do share your thoughts.


Linking to Write Tribe #writingwednesdays

20 comments:

  1. Love how you analysed this, Sunaina and the example of motherhood is spot on. I've always been interested in understanding photolanguage. It is possible to look out for signs that are a giveaway about how comfortable the subject is and the kind of relationship dynamics in a group. I'm wondering if to the extent that one is an expert at this, Godard was right.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When Godard spoke about photography, he completed the sentence talking about the cinema....so the entire statement needs to be analysed....taken out of context, and discussing only photography, even when one is an expert, can not in any way overlook one's subjectivity, I feel. So there will always be more to the picture than what is only visible, I feel.

      Delete
  2. I sometimes wonder how a photograph would look like when it represents the entre reality as it is. Perhaps, the photographer would have to take millions of such snaps for millions of such emotions and thus the amalgation of all the clicks would perhaps result into an abstract art, understood by few but seen by all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It would be a very intriguing indeed....but there will always be an element of subjectivity, a possible perspective involved.....It would be fun to see how it emerges....

      Delete
  3. My conclusion would be: Photographs capture the said moments! other wise, go for videos! :-)

    very well put. Was nice to read this perspective of photographs.. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmm...videos....that's another spectacle which shows us what it wants to be seen.

      Delete
  4. The context matters in photography as much as in most human expressions

    ReplyDelete
  5. as they say beauty lies in the eye of beholder.

    ReplyDelete
  6. सुनैना, कहा जाता है कि सुंदरता चीजों में नहीं होती देखने वालों की आँखों में होती है। यही सच्चाई है।

    ReplyDelete
  7. I liked this erudite analysis and agree that "You don't take a photograph. You make it."
    I believe that a photo reflects the photographer..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You said it....photo reflects the photographer....but then, when we 'read' a photo, we color it with our own perspective too.....Photo is like a text in that sense.

      Delete
  8. As others have said its the person who sees what he see's and clicks .. same for human ways we do what we do as we perceive ..

    Bikram's

    ReplyDelete
  9. There are many ways to see a picture and make assumptions about the same. In 60% of the cases, the picture tells multiple stories. Now how we make our perception about the photo is just a mere formality we do often! Photographer's perspective always shows a different story in rest 40% of the cases.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't entire life about formality and keeping up certain facades?

      Delete
  10. I loved how you analysed it. So true and I agree. We make photographs. I would say pictures are depiction of a particular state of mind, a time at hand. Seeing the picture to believe what it is showing is true is not right. Good one!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True Parul. Thanks for your valuable feedback.

      Delete