Saturday, 17 November 2007

Truth and accuracy

Autumn 1 (into the woods) - alternate, Salzburg, November 2007

The recent posts at the Lanscapist on the subject (from here forward) have prompted me to write a bit more of my thoughts on the subject.

Photography has a great strength in that it can record directly what is actually there. This may then be interpreted, altered etc into some other form. This leads, in my opinion, to two ways in which photography may be used in this context (there are others, but I'm sticking to the truth and accuracy theme here).

The first is a precise rendition of what is in front of the camera, such that one could hold a print next to the subject and see no difference. The second is the artistic truth, whilst not precise in the sense I define as accurate it is clearly a depiction of what was there, often reflecting the photographers feelings at the time.

As examples: product photography (the sort that shows up in catalogues) is designed to be accurate, but it doesn't really offer truth - we learn nothing of the product except its appearance. On the other hand, the work of the great landscape photographers (think Ansel Adams) is about truth: the place, the sense & feeling of being there. Not necessarily precisely accurate.

(A digression on accuracy, black and white can never be accurate as the world is in colour.)

There is, of course, a continuum from truth to accuracy. They are also not mutually exclusive ideas.

In my opinion, anyone who is working in the artistic field of photography, especially in landscape work (in all its forms) is seeking to portray truth. A search does not, however, gaurantee a find. One comment to the post linked above mentioned Jeff Wall, who seems to be a hot discussion topic at present. For me, his work tends much more toward the accurate that the truthful. Whilst his work shows meticulousness and precision, I don't get any sense of a deeper truth, especially knowing the methods employed. It just doesn't work for me. You may not agree with me: fine.

The really good photography shows something real and then projects a sense of something more. That "something" may be all sorts of emotions, content, relationships - it is the intangible part that creates some sense of connection between viewer and subject.

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