“The camera never lies”. Heard that phrase before? Do you believe it? I don’t because every time I create an image, I am not telling the whole truth. Is that a lie? Perhaps, but that is up to your interpretation.
How do I not tell the truth? Do I digitally retouch people in or out of my photos? Do I create scenes to deliberately mislead the viewer? Do I create an “impossible” image that never existed? Perhaps, but I don’t really need to do very much to mislead a viewer.
The moment I compose an image and release the shutter, I have in a sense created a false image. I have captured a moment in time where the viewer has no idea of what happened a moment before or a moment after (unless I am shooting a sequence) but judicious timing can either create a brilliant image or a misleading one. It depends on my intention.
I don’t even have to rely on timing but can mislead by my composition or my “cropping”. I choose to leave out or leave in what I see in my viewfinder. Was that person really at the event? If so, where are the images of that person? Lack of visual proof (he wasn’t there because there are no photos of him) is different from evidence that he was somewhere else.
Do you see what I’m getting at? Every time we create an image, we are creating an interpreted reality for our viewer. A camera is a tool of the photographer and like all tools, it is the master of the tool (the photographer in this case) that controls the results, not the tool.
So the next time you are about to create an image, think about what the purpose is. Are you just recording the scene for posterity or are you trying to say something with your image? If the later, all the better. Photography is a form of communication and like all forms of communication, it can be abused. The next time you see an image that evokes an emotion, think about why or how the photographer managed to do this. You’ll learn something much deeper about photography and hopefully, this will help you in your photographic journey.