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  1. #1
    cliveh's Avatar
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    “All photographs are illusions”

    In a previous post Michael R made the point that “All photographs are illusions” and he is probably correct. However, I thought this statement maybe a good topic for discussion. My own feeling is yes, but perhaps as a photographer, I live in a world of illusions, but hopefully at times grounded in reality.

    “The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”

    Francis Bacon

  2. #2
    blansky's Avatar
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    It's complex.

    It's an illusion because it's a representation of something on a piece of paper. Not the real thing. Obviously.

    It has a point of view that is the same as the photographer's.

    It's a selective view, cropped and angled to achieve it's goal. It could be of a mountain with nobody in the picture, very stark and lonely, but perhaps I cropped out all the people. So what I show is not exactly what was there.

    If I take a picture of someone batting a person over the head. It creates a response from the viewer. It's real. Not an illusion. But it only shows it happening once, not necessarily the number of times it actually happened. He could have been hit over the head 10 times. He could have deserved it. Maybe or maybe not. So while the photograph is real, it tells only a part of a story, making it less real. Or less factual.

    If I take a picture of a mother lovingly holding a baby. You see the love. Very moving. What if the "mother" is an actress and the baby is not her's. You were duped. Happens every day in movies.

    Look at migrant mother. We see defeat and anguish. What if the mother is just bored that the photographer keeps taking shot after shot and is getting sick of it and wish she would bugger off so she can go and make dinner.

    In reality we are all vibrating energy. Not what our eyes see. What are eyes see are an illusion.

    So what we re-create with a camera is probably an illusion as well.

    So what is reality?
    I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.

  3. #3
    Shawn Dougherty's Avatar
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    You've already worded it almost perfectly for me. Photographs are illusions, illusions grounded in reality which makes them so believable... and that is one of the qualities I love most about the medium.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by blansky View Post

    So what is reality?
    Complex to say the least. It is often said that reality is perception... but perception can be either real or an illusion, or even transitory between those states.

  5. #5
    Chris Lange's Avatar
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    It is my personal belief that the power of a photograph lies not in its ability to describe, but its ability to interpret and distill.


    courtesy Daido Moriyama and the ICP Library

    I am not attracted to "perfect" depictions of subject matter...whether that subject matter is perfect in its own right or otherwise. An inquiry is always much more interesting to me than a superficial exaltation.
    See my work at my website CHRISTOPHER LANGE PHOTOGRAPHY

    or my snaps at my blog MINIMUM DENSITY
    --
    If you don't have it, then you don't have it.

  6. #6
    cliveh's Avatar
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    I would say the power of a photograph lies in its ability to ask questions.

    “The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”

    Francis Bacon

  7. #7
    Chris Lange's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cliveh View Post
    I would say the power of a photograph lies in its ability to ask questions.
    I knew I liked you, Clive.
    See my work at my website CHRISTOPHER LANGE PHOTOGRAPHY

    or my snaps at my blog MINIMUM DENSITY
    --
    If you don't have it, then you don't have it.

  8. #8

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    'Illusion' isn't a word I'd use to describe seeing a photograph. You have to suspend your disbelief to get at what a picture is trying to communicate, which is usually something emotionally or intellectually meaningful - if ambiguous. Whereas an illusion is something that causes you to sustain your disbelief - a brick wall to understanding. We've matured since the very early days of photography, when pictures were magic tricks with light. If we still held that same sense of awe every time we saw a picture, all the cat photographs on the net would be masterpieces. If pictures were just illusions, the content would be incidental.
    'Cows are very fond of being photographed, and, unlike architecture, don't move.' - Oscar Wilde

  9. #9
    Chris Lange's Avatar
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    One day someone is going to take this discussion too far and be found dead, buried underneath a mountain of copies of "On Photography".

    Then someone will take an iphone pic and caption it with "WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?"

    They'll end up dead too.
    See my work at my website CHRISTOPHER LANGE PHOTOGRAPHY

    or my snaps at my blog MINIMUM DENSITY
    --
    If you don't have it, then you don't have it.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by batwister View Post
    ...when pictures were magic tricks with light...
    They still are for me.

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