Nothing but the Truth

(Wahrheit: Das erste Opfer des Krieges (und der Fotografie))
Digital photography looks much the same as photography as we’ve known it for 160 years and we approach it with similar expectations: we recognize photography as a factual medium that conveys truth by such simple functions as “witness” and “evidence”. But the medium transformed with the development of digital processes. Whereas the traditional analogue image shows what the photographer saw the digital image instead represents what the computer in every camera thinks we’d like to see. The modern photographic image is the product of computational algorithms and the imprint of light onto the photosensitive surface is no longer the end of the process, it’s only the start. Consequently we’ve learned to fear the digital process for its ability to distort and deceive but we’ve not learned to love it for the added richness that it offers. Our understanding reaches only to knowing that pixels can be manipulated and we haven’t begun to recognize the implications of working with the complex knowledge systems that are intrinsic with every digital image. Trying to accommodate the digital image in the same conceptual framework that helped us understand the analog image is like trying to store water in a woven basket – the basket might have the shape of a water bucket but it’s simply the wrong structure for the task and we lose all the benefits of the old process and deny ourselves the opportunity of the new. Facts and truths are no longer married in the image and it’s time to pronounce the divorce publicly and with confidence.

Stephen Mayes discusses how digital processes change the representation of factual information and explores the relationship between facts, alternative facts and truth in modern photographic imagery.