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(postmodernism on reality what is real?

Contemporary society is dominated by and is reliant on the image. The consumption


and distribution of images is essential to capitalist society, encouraging further
consumption of products by the public. The mass reproduction, distribution and
exposure of these images automatically makes the public aware of what they
represent, accepting them as part of reality and proof of the authenticity of the event
or subject depicted. Photography is at the centre of this phenomenon, having almost
undisputed authority on modern society. Photographic images are seen as faithful
documents of reality. Photography has become a way for society to justify the validity
of experiences and objects. As a result, the division between reality and its
representation created by the image have become blurred. (Sontag, 1977)

Photography is has traditionally been associated with fact, yet from its inception the
medium has been used for fiction as well. (photography as fiction book) In the mid20th century, the effects of wars, the great depression and anticommunist sentiments
had impact the views of artists and as such, real and factual documentary
photographs were lauded over the other types. (photography as fiction) However,
with A. D. Coleman's essay ''The Directorial Mode: Notes Towards a Definition" (1976)
heralded a change in perspective. Coleman criticizes the notion that photographs
automatically represent truth because of false evidence which could be presented as
true. (photography as cultural history)

In contemporary times, due to the proliferation of images and the increasing


sophistication of digital tools the problem of truth has emerged. As photographer
Fontcuberta maintains, reality is constructed. Furthermore, today anyone with a
smartphone can invent their own truths through photography. The worldwide access
to internet grants the freedom to disseminate and manipulate these images and
contexts. ( connie wolf https://undergrad.stanford.edu/programs/sophomorecollege/courses/photographytruth-or-fiction-or) Therefore, individuals are unable to and do not have the means to
distinguish between truth and fiction. For Barthes documentary practice is a source of
value which is positive and is attached to a rise of staged and fictive photography.
(barthes)

- There is a problem in identifying realism and the truth-telling claims of


photography solely with documentation and antirealism with stages and
fictive photography

The terms fictive documents and documentary fiction are hard to define because they
denote a contradiction of terms. Both terms refer to factual data such as interviews,

testaments, official records, etc. The aim of these are to tell a true story. However,
next to the term fiction or fictive, they acquire a different meaning. Thus, these terms
mean the fabrication of ideas and stories using factual data, intentionally blurring the
division between fiction and fact. (Hinken, 2006)

Fictive Photography requires the presence of the viewer for it to achieve its aim. This
is achieved by using a fabricated and artificial sense of authenticity which fosters in
the viewer a sense of trust, perceiving the work as being real. This truth presented to
the viewer is a subjective one as it is the product of the specific vision of the artist.
(Hinken, 2006)

The use of multiple media presented as primary evidence and the transmission of the
story across different platforms further emphasize the authenticity of the story
presented and the narrative becomes even more complex. (fontcuberta) In documents
of fiction photography, the viewer thus becomes participant as the he or she is free to
interpret the evidence and create meaning, guided by the artist (Hinken, 2006)

According to Fontcuberta, in documentary photography, the most important thing is


the effect rather than the intent. New tools, such as digital manipulation, allow for
new approaches to documentary photography. Artists like Fontcuberta maintain that
the use of such tools is necessary in order to provoke a reaction form the viewer.
( maria theresa ib) As such, the use of these tools to manipulate original images is
meant to persuade that the object in question is real.

The blending of truth and fiction in photography alerts the viewer to the paradoxes of
contemporary reality. (fontcuberta) However, photographers are divided on whether
reality should be manipulated through photography or simply captured as it is. Master
photojournalist Henri Cartier-Bresson firmly believes a photographer's task to be
perceived and record reality as it is, without manipulating it in any way. Similarly,
photographer Arnold Newman believes in the importance of honesty in photography,
stressing that what makes good photography is whether it can be distinguished as
honest from dishonest. (Hughes 2012). In contrast, such theorists like Umberto Eco

Documentary photography traditionally belonged to the realm of truth. However,


some contemporary photographers are blurring the boundaries between fiction and
reality like their literary and cinematic counterparts. (Laurent, 2013) Artists have
expressed in different ways their relationship with fiction. Artist Joe Scanlan created a
fictional persona named Donelle Woolford because he thought that his work would
gain in depth if it were to be associated with an emerging black woman artist. He
even hires actors to play the role of the fictional artist, with photos taken of them and
their actual presence in exhibitions. Through these photographs and the recurrent

presence of these actors posing as the artist, the fictitious persona appears to be real
as it is a phenomena taking place in reality not outside of it.(Sigler, 2010) Similarly,
Marcel Duchamp had impersonated and subsequenty created artworks posing as the
ficticious Rrose Selavy. (Russeth, 2003)

In Mohammed Bourouissa 's Priphries photography is he presents a series of largescale photographs which exposes the state of marginalized immigrant youth who live
in an unstable city. Each photograph recalls the realism of photojournalism, yet they
are staged fictional representations of the mixed race communities who inhabit the
areas. Bourouissa achieves this sense of realism through the strategically positioned
and cropped subjects, hinting at the truth-conveying nature of documentaries because
of their appearant spontaneity and proximity. (White Hot Magazine, 2010) Therefore,
through his photographs the artist challenges the traditional perceptions of
documentary as truth by using real and imaginary experiences together. The result
are photographed scenes which does not allow the viewer to separate the real from
the invented. (We Are the Open College of Arts, 2011)

While Bourouissa's works focus primarily on society and external conflict, Eileen Cowin
concentrates on the domestic scene. Her photography treat the contemporary famile
life, such as in her series Family Docudrama. Here she staged domestic scenes in
which she and the members of her family perform as actors. Not only does Cowin
blurr the boundaries between fiction and truth but she also addresses the boundary
between private behaviour and public performance through the medium of
photography. For her staged photographs, Cowin borrows from a mixture of daily
family interactions and soap operas. (photography as fiction) She merges truth with
fiction, but presents no conclusions to her stories, leaving this role to the viewer to
discern and make up his own opinions. (Zellen, n.d.)

Seung Woo Back 's intention in his photographs is to depict the world the way he sees
it while exploring the ambiguous boundaries between truth and fiction.nHis 'better
than vegas?' from the series Real World at a first glance appears to be a digitally
manipulated image of a real site. However there is no manipulation of the image as it
is a truthful shot of a real place. (citation) Therefore he has successfully
managed to make the viewer aware of his or her preset assumption that certain
images are immediately regarded as untruthful. In his other works like Real World II,
Back arranges small toy soldiers in a real landscape, looking as if they have marched
into a village. Using no special manipulation other than camera angles and the
placement of his subjects, the images still look fictional and unreal. As such the artist
outlines and challenges the notion that the viewer is always unconsciously under the
assumption that an unrealistic depiction is always connected to fiction. (Young Shin,
n.d.) Therefore, for the artist, the real world is equally capable of producing unrealistic
depictions using existing subjects.

Nonetheless, it can be argued that photography, regardless of whether it is used in


conjunction with elements of fiction, is not objective since there is always a conscious
decision behind the choice of subject, in the use of the lens, the angle selected, etc.
This means that to an extent, there is still a degree of distortion of reality. (find a
reference) Even in the case of other forms of photography which have been deemed
objective, like in the case of Deadpan, it could be argued that the experiences of the
viewer will colour the reception of the image and how it is interpreted. Therefore,
objectivity in photography is a myth? <ref> Moreover, since a photograph is twodimensional, it cannot act as a representation of a three-dimensional world. (Hughes,
2012) Consequently, contemporary photographers are not bound by reality but use it
as a springboard for their own ideas. This is akin to Alfred Stieglitz's philosophy. While
he firmly believed that photography was a product of objective reality, he still
believed it was a powerful medium of self-expression. (Stroebel & Zakia, 1993)