237.130_A2_Wk4_Task1_Meaning making and ‘Truth Value’

The Myth of Photographic Truth


If “positivism” philosophizes what can be scientifically proven as the world’s only authentic truth, then truth is but a myth in photography. Considered in Mark Osterman’s presentation: “A photographic truth”, the photograph is often conceived as “an unmediated copy of the real world…a trace of reality” and (what is consistently criticized by Osterman)”evidence of the real”. The reasons that a photograph may not be treated as a positivism truth are the distinct alterations that occur through the chemistry process of photography that differentiate the real world from the photograph. Alterations are describes as: colour, rotation/mirroring of an image, retouching, and the way time in an instant is unobservable to the naked eye- thereby vastly untrue to reality. It is of course, the reason that a photographic truth exists, that photographs rely on the effects of light, the natural assistant that allows the world to be visible by the eye. Yet, light is one of the many components of photography that, in their manipulation, manipulate the way an audience perceives an image.

A photograph is not a truth, and in a result we have developed what Mirzoeff describes as a flexible lens used in the way we view photographs, the trust we have in what we see. The human eye has become quite untrusting of the world we see. The drift of our eyes between screen and what is really here is constant, and almost all is registered by the mind as a manipulation, alteration. The state of an image as both the real and the imagined/ created, give us both information and emotion.

Describing something as denotative or as connotative is helpful in the viewer’s process of analyzing visual texts. What is denotative is the “literal statements” made by an image. Alternatively, ideologies, stereotypes, generic or romanticized projections of an image are it’s connotative qualities.  The act of noticing that something is either denotative or connotative makes for a well aware viewer of photographs. A viewer that may avoid tricks of advertising, hear the songs sung by the visual representation of a person, and create powerful visual texts in this visual age.



Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. “Images, Power and Politics.” Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2001. N. pag. Print.

Osterman, Mark. “A Photographic Truth.” YouTube. The Met, 26 Oct. 2012. Web. 01 May 2016.


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