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Understanding Of Photographic Truth And Manipulation

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Modernism states that some truths do last and these truths reflect basic, universal conditions of humanity. These lasting truths are often expressed in mythic themes and examples. Science, journalism and art make use of the connection between myth and truth, mostly notably, in the mythic examples of form: beauty. Scientific news, artistic and documentary photography all use the example of beauty as a connection of truth. Beauty, however, is based on the beliefs of a culture, and does not necessarily define truth. Understanding of photographic truth, like all other truths, depends on an understanding of culture, belief, history, and the universal aspect of human nature.

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Post modernists believe that truth is socially constructed and ever-changing, and modernists, who believe in universal, unchanging truths. I believe I have found a way to make use of both theories, however. There are truths that change over time and according to culture; the process of scientific investigation proves there is no final answer, but rather there is a process of constant discovery. New information gives light to new theories. But there are also truths that last, because there are aspects of the human condition which remain constant. These lasting truths are often revealed in mythic archetypes and themes. Both theories are relevant to a discussion of photographic philosophy. Photographs tell both stories that have universal appeal and stories that reflect changing social values.

When photography was first introduced 150 years ago, it was seen as the perfect documentary medium because the mechanical nature of the medium ensured unadulterated, exact replicas of the subject matter. Because photographs could expose the facts of life behind the facade, the photographs were credible witness of reality. Photos told “the truth” by exposing people in an unrehearsed and candid manner. Ralph Waldo Emerson claimed enthusiastically, “Photography is distinguished by its immediacy, its authenticity, and the remarkable fact that its eye sees more than the human eye. The camera shows everything. ”

Contrasting to the above argument the photo editors at National Geographic, for instance, “start from the proposition that film materials are “far from perfect in reproducing what was really there”. One type of manipulation occurs when we convert the 3 dimensional object into a print in form of a photograph. Another type of manipulation occurs during the picture-taking process. In creating a photograph, the photographer chooses the subject matter, composes the scene, and uses filters and other such tools to change the nature of the photograph.

15 April 2020

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