Truth, lies, and BS

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Julie H, Apr 16, 2017.

  1. Your picture that I am looking at would be described as:

    1. true
    2. a lie
    3. BS [aka bullshi*]

    If your picture is none of the above, how would you describe its truth value? What am I getting from it?

    Does a really good lie turn into a truth? Does a really lame truth turn into a lie? Can you make a picture of something turning from one to the other?

    My preference is for BS, because it seems like it sets my mind free, like recess from school, like I have room to breathe. But what does that do to the "truth value" of the picture? Are BS pictures like a pillow fight? All fun and no punch?

    In defense of lies, which I expect many people think of as "bad," here is Michelle Grabner:

    "Lying is more interesting and critical than bullshi**ing because lying has a relationship to truth. ... Lying ... is directed at something bigger than you. As Harry Frankfurt writes:​

    "Telling a lie is an act of sharp focus. It is designed to insert a particular falsehood at a specific point in a set or system of beliefs, in order to avoid the consequences of having that point occupied by the truth. This requires a degree of craftsmanship in which the teller of the lie submits to objective constraints imposed by what he takes to be truth. The liar is inescapably concerned with truth-values."​


    Your pictures are truth, lies, BS or ... ?
    Did you know this at the time you were making them, or only in post?
  2. Is a picture "true"? Hm. I am not sure that "true" means very much unless one is talking about accuracy of reproduction, but I am pretty sure that that is not what inspires you in your photography, Julie--nor what inspired this thread.

    I can certainly imagine a number of ways that I could speak of "truth" regarding photography. I might, for example, ask "Am I being true to myself in trusting my own judgment of what is worthy?" I might also ask, "Am I advancing some social cause to which I am truly committed?" (The specter of didacticism looms here, but I shall ignore it for the moment.) I might even ask, in a forensic or related context, "Is this photo intended to inform or to deceive?"

    I guess that I am a bit stymied as to the choices you have given us, Julie. I don't typically thing of my photography as being either "true" or "false" or, um, nonsense. Maybe you can elaborate--or maybe someone else can. I am coming up pretty empty here.

  3. Lannie, think of wedding photography. I think most of it is pure BS, but it's wonderful, delicious, joyous BS that everybody knows is BS, but everybody loves ... because it's BS. For one day, let's all live in fairy tale land.

    Really good portrait photography, on the other hand, is often an amazingly ingenious lie. Wonderfully clever, requiring just the right inflection of shading not to blow the slant of the truth. Working inside of the truth.

    Art photography is all over the map. I'll leave that for other people to investigate.

    My composites (you're right, if that's what you mean by "your photography") is indeed neither true nor false nor BS, but that's because they are composites. I think of them as little machines or little games. Like a lever or a bicycle, they're not true or false, they are there to shift you or make you play. Hooks with worms on them. But that's hard to do with 'straight' photography, IMO. When shooting straight, 'for fun', I seem to like visual twists that are what I would call BS.
  4. My preference, in terms of creativity, is for the double, even triple, entendre. For example, the following was my response to the No Words theme "Standing out":
    Standing Out-1725a-sml.jpg
    Is the speaker standing out from her peers in terms of achievement? Is she standing apart from the rest of the people on the dais? Or, is she the brightest point of interest in a fairly low-key composition? All of the above? In other ways? Why has she been selected to address this assembly? It all begs an engaged analysis and thoughtful inquiry (I hope). I believe that makes it engaging and interesting, at least relative to the designated topic.

    My life experience does not make me a lover or even an appreciator of lies or deceit. I do like Julie's point about wedding photography, but I would offer that a focus on the happiness and joy of that day is not BS, but rather a statement of hope. Images that intentionally lie or deceive are anathema.
  5. Images that intentionally lie or deceive are anathema.
    Oh, I don't know, Dave. I tell white lies all the time with my photography:

  6. PapaTango

    PapaTango Itinerant Philosopher

    I must be dumb as a box of hammers, but I just cannot figure out the intent or direction of this thread.

    As to truth, here in PN I know one thing for sure. I can't get this damn page to stop refreshing... :confused:
  7. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Truth, like beauty, usually in the eye of the beholder. Images, not always, or even usually the subject of a treatise.

  8. What's an Image?
  9. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    by that token, reportage & documentary photography is BS as it lets many of us care for a while (secs, mins, hours, etc)about, say, the starving millions before moving onto more pressing problems. but i suppose a lot of the R&D stuff is also true and on occasion a lie.

    gee, this is a tough one
  10. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet...." Picture, photo, image, call it what you will.

  11. Okay. Is it true, a lie, or BS?
  12. I've done news photography for decades. It is not about truth or lies, it simply what I found at that moment. Mischief, murder, mayhem or whatever. Same with weddings, there is no effort to tell the truth or make up a lie. It's what happened that day. These days I simply go out and photograph what I find or what suits me or catches my eye. No statements or points of view. I know there are photographers out there trying to bring out 'truth' and equally plenty who excel at just making this crap up but that doesn't have anything to do with photography, it's simply the messenger. But that's just me.

    Rick H.
  13. David, I think your photo is a good example of context having an impact where it often if not always makes a difference in how I view a picture. Placing this in the Standing Out forum would be comparable in terms of impact to titling it "Standing Out", which will give the viewer an initial point in a direction. Without the title, I'd probably tend see it as a good shot of a speaker at a graduation (which is already me giving meaning to what I see). If I took it a step further, I might assume she's being lit by a stage spot and the rest of the room was not. I'd take it as a documentary shot of her addressing the audience. The truth or accuracy wouldn't be a factor unless there were reason for me to question it. Maybe you increased the light on her and decreased the light on the audience in post processing. If so, that wouldn't make it false to me, it would just provide emphasis. In this case, without further reasons, I wouldn't care about the accuracy of the lighting. Had you cloned a friend in to try and fool someone into thinking she had graduated when she hadn't, I'd question the ethics of your doing so.

    Had I come across this in the No Words Standing Out forum, I likely would have experienced the same double/triple entendre as you. I often find the No Words forum gives interesting twists to photos submitted just because of the context provided.

    For me, if a photo tells a truth it's more often an emotional or intellectual truth and not just about accuracy. It's can be a deeper kind of truth, the kind of truth that shows me a personal authentic emotional response to something seen, a passion for a given subject, the retelling of something experienced in such a way as to compel me to see something in it of significance or import. In this respect, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is not a "true" story, but it tells important truths about human emotions and behavior.
    DavidTriplett likes this.

  14. In other words, it has meaning. What is that meaning based on? What's the warrant for anybody accepting its message?
  15. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    "I know now that there is no one thing that is true - it is all true."
    Ernest Hemingway

  16. He was lying.

    Is that true?
  17. I agree with this, David, but would qualify that it's bad when HARM results. I think of surrealism and many other photos as interestingly deceptive. Surrealists will often purposely distort and deceive in order to gain alternative perspectives on reality. A good photographer may, through filters or Photoshop, make a daylight sky look as black as midnight for dramatic effect. That can be a cool deception . . . or a bad cliche . . . but doesn't cause harm. People are often thrilled when they find out that what they see in a photo is so different from what may have "really" been the case. But the example I gave above, of faking someone's graduation, is not in the same league and ought to be frowned upon.
    DavidTriplett likes this.
  18. PapaTango

    PapaTango Itinerant Philosopher


    I think that this is an image. But of what? Is there any 'truth' here, in what appears on the surface to be a straight capture of something that once was? Is the boy actually in the air, are we seeing an illusion created by light and contrast, or is some PhotoShop trickery in play? Was there even a boy or bird in the original negative?

    A year or so ago, we had one of the regular, repeating debates about "Authenticity." One photo that was debated is the iconic Kent State photo of Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling over the body of Jeffrey Miller. At some point in time long, long ago, an editor decided that the steel post that appeared to be emerging from Vecchio's head was a distraction and disturbance to the feng shui of the image--and removed it. For decades, people viewed the changed image as it rapidly replaced showings of the original--and that became the truth of the scene for them. Seems like such a little thing, doesn't it? :cool:

    Or what can (or hasn't been) said about the work of Steve McCurry? Things portrayed and presented as 'natural', but highly staged and crafted. Slices of colorful reality carefully chosen and framed to present an 'exotic' and cognitive appealing representation of the culture--ignoring the larger realities just outside the borders of the frame. Or consider the state of present political photojournalism. Targeted selection of emotive faces and postures--representing just a second or two of an overall segment of time--and "shifted" to apply to a comment or statement that occurred earlier or later. The intent being to make a connection between a disturbing and negative presentation and a controversial position statement. Two things not connected--but made into 'truth' to convince the viewer of a negative personality and position.

    Ahh, more fodder for this 'post-truth' and 'alternative facts' world we have entered... :rolleyes:

  19. That's what I'm asking you. See the OP:

    I agree that we know that there will be many different opinions from an audience. What I'd like to know is what you think about your photographic 'IMAGE.'

    (You'll maybe have noticed, that there are two possible sides of the camera about which you can answer. Is it a truth/lie/BS about you, or a truth/lie/BS about the subjects shown?)
  20. PapaTango

    PapaTango Itinerant Philosopher

    Ahhh, the rub. While I am growing my abilities to create and produce images that are pleasing and meaningful to me--that is only a third of the process. Rather, those I print and package for "hard" consumption must speak to the visual consumer. I wish that I could post in the galleries work that has emerged in the last year--but until certain things about this effing place are fixed that is not going to happen... :( So it might appear that I am barking up an empty tree.

    On my personal photo site, I say the following:

    "My goal as a photographer and artist is to capture that which is of interest—condense it into a new frame of reference—and leave it to you, the viewer to bring your emotions, thoughts, and affinity to find that which is meaningful and resonates on a personal level."

    There is the test. The relative success of that is the only 'truth' that concerns me!

    Oh, and as to the magic of 'Fly" shown in the previous post? Even my grandson who is the subject of the photo does not know the 'truth.' And likely no one except for me ever will--and sometimes I wonder about this myself. That ultimate judgement belongs to the viewer... :p
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2017

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