Feb 23, 2010

The evidence of photos

"The events are in part designed to be photographed. The grin is a grin for the camera. There would be something missing if, after stacking the naked men, you couldn't take a picture of them”

-- Susan Sontag

This should be a crucial case for study in any of the ongoing discussions and considerations of truth and manipulation in digital photography. Many commentators on and students of the subject seem to want to believe that there is always a clear and easy distinction to be made between true and false, real and fake, perhaps because they still want photography to adhere to a standard that’s at least something like the “myth of photographic truth.” A consideration of the Abu Ghraib pictures shows some of the intense complications in making these distinctions, or using these terms. It seems obscene to say that, because the scenes pictured were designed, organized and constructed, that the photos are somehow fake, and yet, there is a good argument to be made that, following Sontag, the scenes pictured would not have existed apart from the presence of the camera.