Photography Is All A Lie

There’s reality and then there’s photography. I’ll build my case.

If you want an accurate portrayal of some moment, then just be there yourself. If you can’t be there, then you need to have it documented for you somehow. First choice would be video. Even film the whole thing in its entirety from a security camera-like point of view with time stamp running in the corner. It won’t be pretty, but again, it’s accurate.

But ya know if this was say, a wedding video, then you’d probably want to spruce it up. Cutting, panning, zooming, maybe mix in some choice music to enhance some key moments. Sauce it up. We’re losing some accuracy here, but video can only lie so much.

And then there is photography. Photography, capturing a fraction of a second of time, is a sliver of a moment. And because it’s also at the whim of whatever the photographer chooses to capture in the lens, it’s really a sliver of a sliver of a moment. This sliver of a sliver of a moment is the “account” that you get from looking at a photo.

Also if we can spruce up a wedding video, why not spruce up a wedding photo? There are all kinds of post-processing wonders that can be done at the flick of a thumb: bluer skies, clearer skin, HDR, nostalgic filters, and ways to make a picture more “picturesque” than real life itself.

So you get what I mean, right? With each smaller slice of a moment, it’s less accurate, plus it’s that much easier for us to alter to our own motive. But next is the real zinger:

The irony is that 90% of people will look at these photos and believe every 1/200th of a second of it! Because our minds will take that fraction of a second and then fill in the rest. 1 photo of people laughing at a bar? We assume that the whole night was a blast. A dreamy, nostalgic photo of a couple running in a field? We believe that they must be the most ideal couple this universe has ever created. Fields were created for couples like these. This couple made this field into what it is today. Okay, you get it.

Two of my own recent examples: long story short, I had spent 2 weeks fermenting my own juice wine at home and making a simple cheese. I took a beautiful photo, sent it to friends. They all were astounded and drooling over my creation. Guess what? It all tasted terrible.

2nd example, I took this shot of an artsy cafe, made the colors pop and added vignetting to the edges. First comment I got? “Wow, lovely blue skies.” Guess what? This photo was taken in Beijing on one of the most polluted, gray days of the year. I was even wearing a face mask while taking the photo.

The point of this writing is not to complain, but is to bring awareness to the 90% of people who often believe beyond what’s portrayed in photos.

And who are the other unbelieving 10%? Photographers.

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