You learned a long time ago that some things are not what they seem, that just because they look good doesn’t mean that they are good. But have you ever tried applying that to photography?
A bit crazy, I know. But the idea here is that photographs – however nice they may appear – are irrevocably just the tip of the iceberg. There are whole lives contained within them, stories within stories within stories. And while sometimes we just want to look at a pretty picture, sometimes we want more. We want the real deal.
A lot of the power of a photograph is how “real” it is. This is why people are deeply concerned when they learn that an image has been “manipulated,” because they feel like they are being tricked. We want to believe our eyes, so we want to see things that are believable even if (or better yet when) they are incredible.
So, how does a photograph become more “real”? A big step is for the viewer to understand the context of its creation. If we know that it began as an art director’s vision then we will comprehend it much differently than if we believe it to be a documentary statement. Regardless of genre, I think that the best photographs of the coming era will not be isolated and frozen fragments of time like so many images of the past. Instead, they will be portals into experiences of which we can take part in order to better understand our world. A good photographer always has and always will do just that – help us to understand, somehow.
It’s the new frontier, this tangled web of connections and content and context. Think about an image, and then think about how you could step into it. These are the newest dimensions of our craft; avenues once closed are now wide open.
Many of us can make a pretty picture. How many of us can make a really good picture?