The Supreme Medium of Truth?


With the advance of digital photography, a disquieting and incessant murmur has rumbled into the public discourse — one that challenges photography’s claim as the “supreme medium of truth.” How people have come to believe that a photograph could ever reveal anything other than partial actuality is hard to imagine. Nevertheless, since its inception, the insistent assertion that “seeing is believing” has been hard to dismiss.

Digital photography, with its malleable and seamless potential of manipulated embellishment, has all but eroded public confidence in the medium as one of faithful verisimilitude.

Add to this sense of disillusionment, not only the demise of photographic truth, but also the lurid antics of the paparazzi. Photojournalism’s evil twin, paparazzi, pressed their way into the headlines again after being finally held responsible, partially, for the death of Princess Diana and her lover. Emboldened by the pursuit of cashing in on society’s insatiable appetite for the scandalous and salacious, the paparazzi appeal to society’s more prurient interests.

Even the hallowed fourth estate has had to deal with the self-serving motivations of a few photojournalists willing put careers at risk in order to make an image stretch the truth. Digital photography has brought us closer to an age of pseudo-realism, where the truth is expurgated through the emerging technologies of photographic computation.

Colleen Wheeler observes,

Ultimately … photographers are people, and people will always have the choice to use their powers (and software) for good or evil. We’ll all need to be aware of the use and misuse of digital technology in our everyday experiences. It’s nothing new.

[tags]digital photography, photojournalism[/tags]


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