Maybe not all of them and maybe not intentionally (in some cases) but, more or less, almost every photograph is a lie of sorts. I'm not even talking about post-processing. We portray what we want the world to see. Each one is a view of the world from the photographer's viewpoint. The only photos I can think of that might be totally honest are documentary and clinical in nature like, perhaps, crime scene photos. But I even wonder about those.
Advertising---using a photo to sell something---may be the most egregious example. Maybe art is worse. Maybe we're all selling something. But lies come in all kinds. Even the simple act of cropping---by the very nature of a limited field of view---can be called a lie of omission.
Photographs contain truth as well. "I know these people. I was there. We were having fun." But was it candid? Was it staged? I see what's in the photo but what's been left out? The simple act of framing a shot, perspective, and lighting all play their part in lying to the viewer.
I know none of this is radical or new. But I've been thinking about it a lot lately. I'm not wracked by guilt or anything---I'm comfortable lying through my photographs. It's more of an intellectual and artistic curiosity. I see it more and more in photos I take, photos I've taken in the past even before I ever thought about this, and photos I see everyday by others. Seeing a photo of a place and actually being there are fundamentally different.
I post a lot of photos of my family to my account on Flickr. They're all (mostly) honest and real. But most are also an idealized view. Each one is a tiny window on a life that, in many ways, is different than it appears. One of my most recent photos (top) shows me and my son having fun, eating pizza, and playing games on a Saturday afternoon. That's true. That really happened. But the photo was staged after the fact. In that particular case I wanted to capture the spirit of the moment rather than the moment itself. In one sense it's a complete fabrication. And yet it also tells a true story. I think when I see it again in the future it will bring back true and good memories of that time.
What do you think? Are you a visual liar?