However, 'blind faith' in photography is not that simple and with this essay I hope to show that an entirely realist view does not stand up when examined and that the camera can indeed lie

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MC10220                Adam McCartney

“The Camera Never Lies”?

There is a saying that ‘the camera never lies’. This is a realist view of photography in so far as it trusts the camera thoroughly and without question. These views of photography have led to photographic evidence carrying connotations of truth from evidence in court cases to passport photographs, photo I.D. cards and now driving licences. However, ‘blind faith’ in photography is not that simple and with this essay I hope to show that an entirely realist view does not stand up when examined and that the camera can indeed lie or deceive.

In the introduction of John Tagg’s book The Burden of Representation he mentions Roland Barthes book Camera Lucida and in it that Barthes gives a reassertion of this realist view of photography. Barthes describes the camera as an ‘instrument of evidence’ and the photographs it produces represent what was put before the lens and that which was photographed ‘was there’ but what we see in the photograph is a reality we can no longer touch. A photograph is a capture of an event which has happened yet has also passed. (Tagg, 1988, 1). The first real problem with trusting photographs and giving them the virtue of an inexplicable truth is that photographs have been altered, doctored and faked since nearly as long as we have had photographic technology. A famous example from the 1920s saw photographic editing at the request of Stalin to ‘erase’ out of favour Leon Trotsky from a picture with Lenin. The before and after shots can be seen in Figures 1 and 2. There are a great many other examples from history of photographs that have or could have been altered or simply just faked. Figure 3 is a picture taken from 1917 where two little girls created a fake picture of some fairies which at the time convinced a great number of people of the existence of fairies. This story was turned into a

feature film, Fairytale: A True Story (Sturridge, 1997). The girls who took the photograph later admitted it was a fake made by sticking pictures of fairies from a story book to hat pins then sticking the pins into the log in the photograph. Other subjects that has been faked and falsified in photographs over the years have included ghosts, flying saucers (Figure 4) and the Loch Ness Monster. One of the most famous Loch Ness Monster photographs can be seen in Figure 5. The photograph was taken by RK Wilson on the 19th of April 1934 and though it was claimed a hoax in 1994 some still stand by its authenticity. ( It is possible to believe all these photographs of paranormal phenomena any person who trusted them all would likely be thought of as gullible or naïve. From this I believe I can conclude that if not all the photographs are what they appear to be, the camera, a photograph or the photographer can be deceptive.

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A major problem with trusting all photography without question comes from human eyes, the human brain and human interpretation and their inherent differences from the actions and designs of a camera. The human eye and the camera both use lenses but the camera can use a variety of different lenses causing potential distortion compared to what we see with the naked human eye. For example a fisheye lens view of the world as seen in Figure 6 is not how a normal human eye would perceive the same event but how a fish might. We see the photograph in ...

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