Unlike the warnings which annotate everyday life (“may contain nuts”, “do not attempt at home”…) this is a promise: No reality was hurt in the making of the photographs in this exhibition. No CGI (computer-generated imagery), no Photoshop.
In the 20th Century, Susan Sontag reminded us that we understood a photograph to be of something that did or does exist, no matter what lenses, filters, or films were deployed to transformed it. Whereas a painting had no necessary connection to the real. As Roland Barthes succinctly put it: “A photograph is always invisible; it is not it that we see.”
In the 21st Century we have all learned to perceive differently. While we still look through the photograph in front of us, we no longer believe it must portray a solid reality. Today, it is not the KGB expert’s unusual skill which eliminates a discredited enemy from the politburo photograph. We can each remove the whole crowd on the beach around our beloved, with the simple touch of a Photoshop finger.
Forty-five years ago, Sontag wrote “A faked painting (with false attribution) falsifies the history of art. A faked photograph (retouched or tampered with) falsifies reality.”
We see a quite different world now. Yet the photograph remains ‘invisible,’ is looked through, not at.
My current work explores this central paradox of photography: and the difficulty of seeing what is in front of the eyes. There is too much reality out there. As we move through the world, we tend to edit out much of what is actually in front of us. I am not interested in post-click, electronic manipulation: here is what I see.
Does the distinction between the real and unreal, the true and fake, matter at all? Are they not just flat images of more or less visual interest?
Ah yes, but what the caption “this is a real photograph” is saying is: “Look! This is what you too see, if you open your eyes.”