Truth and Falsity

I’ve written on several occasions, here and elsewhere about the work of Errol Morris and his ideas about truth in photographs, and his contention that “all photography is posed” and that there is “always an elephant just outside the frame”, or that the photograph always de-contextualises its subject.

On The Guardian site you can watch a fairly short video of him talking about his ideas, and you can still read my pieces about his study of Fenton’s two Valley of the Shadow of Death pictures at Cannon Balls to Fenton (2007) and a two part Speculation on Photographs,  (Part 2) where I make some comment and express some reservations about his ideas.

Perhaps his doggedly exhaustive investigation of the Fenton did convincingly tell us something about the leaves, but told us nothing more about the trees, let alone the forest. Of course Fenton’s images need contextualisation, but that isn’t achieved by the study of minutiae.

If Fenton came across a road which had been cleared of cannon balls and decided to return some of them to produce a second picture that perhaps more clearly reflected the ‘reality’ of the situation, does that make his work any more or less important in documenting the war in the Crimea?  Or would we think any less of his work if we found he had cleared the road because he felt the contrast between the empty road and the cannon ball strewn landscape made his a stronger picture of what was surely in either case a death trap?

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