A photograph, the child of the camera, is a powerful tool in aiding the process of representation in reality. In the modern era where cameras are easily available, the photography loses itself as an art and transformed itself to an interest or a hobby.
To quote my best friend’s Facebook post, he said
“I just want to take some nice holiday photos and show them off on facebook.”
Yet, a photo is a simple claim to truth by providing validity to our social collective experience in the world around us. You snap a photo and this photo acts pretty much like a snapshot of reality. It is a no brainer that photography is a constitution of reality in that sense.
However, constituting photo realism and authenticity is always linked. A photo, because it is always mediated and appropriated by the cameraman, may provide falseness of reality as well. Thus the question is that, where do we draw the line between reality and the truth of photograph since it is always mediated by the user’s intention to the photo editing skills?
A photograph influences an individual’s perspective of truth and reality. We can take snapshots of the places and faces around us to indicate their participation in art or prove their existences. How we perceive reality is largely based on epistemology certainty and relatability. For example, family and wedding portraits are signifiers to acknowledge the existence of a unity. In light of this, a photograph provides a form of memory for us to look back and appreciate the good times. Thus the aesthetics behind a photograph illustrates more than just sentiments, emotions but also certainty in our static reality.
The key issue is the act of appropriation of photographs.
Susan Sontag asserts that there is always ‘power’ imposed on the subject in any photograph. This means that there is an underline power relationship between the subject and object in the photograph. The photographer has the ability to edit and the agency to publish the photograph whenever he likes. However, what he posts, despite being reflective of reality, provides a falseness of reality. This may sound like a paradox but I will explain it further.
Ever looked a tourist postcard of a Swiss Alps and go ‘Man, it is so pretty and I want to go there’ but when you personally stand on the edge of Alps, the places may not be as beautiful as what you saw?
In recent times, digitalization of photographs has enabled for easier editing and in that sense, such appropriation influences reality especially in providing the aesthetics of a certain place. For the tourist postcards are edited to a point where they are aesthetically pleasing to the consumers to buy them. With that said, some photographs are made for the mass production to show what is desired. This is sits well with aesthetic consumerism. Digitalization also improves the general quality of photographs. Yet, one may raise question of its authenticity. Thus this gives rise to ‘no filter’ art to differentiate the level of photographers. A professional photographer is able to display the aesthetic qualities of ‘pure’ photos without editing.
It seems to me that we can never eradicate the process of appropriation in photography because there will forever be a button on the camera which implies that the cameraman has the power to snap a photo when and where he prefers. On a side note, he also can provide a watermark to stamp his own ‘claim to truth’. Photography provides the construction of reality by showcasing the truth.
A good feeder question is when does the act of appropriation supplies an authentic photo? Authenticity is a focal point in this case then. What is authentic? Or are we plainly regard a photograph as a proof of validity just because we can relate to it?
A photograph may not be the ideal way to present reality as opposed to a video because it is a mere snapshot. It is two dimensional and can be taken out of context when being interpreted. For example, Diego Costa, a soccer player, was caught in a scuffle with his opponent where his hands were cupped against the latter’s neck for one second. Yet the snapshot of this act was presented to the soccer fans displaying the innate violence of Costa. Thus a photograph may not be the ideal tool to present reality. It can be over-exaggerated by editing techniques or wrongly interpreted.
In all, a photograph is a cheap and common tool as a process to constitute reality. The mass production of cameras and the widely available photo editing softwares, anyone can take up photography as a hobby. Yet being a professional photographer is another.
Well, more importantly, we can’t look a photograph the same again.