Photography as reference

bn_nk11153791811A historical view of photography often leads to the conception that a photo is a true representation of reality; what is depicted in the photo really exists, or existed. Digital photography has certainly challenged this notion, but even before the advent of digital cameras, questions were raised about the veracity of photography. Decisions in framing and printing by the photographer alter reality, and what one chooses to photograph necessarily implies that something was not photographed. Even further than this is the idea that a photograph of a scene or thing or person can in no way truly represent the true nature of that thing. A philosopher of language theory, Jacques Derrida, wrote at length about the inability of language to fully communicate thought, as it is hopelessly limited and fallible due in part to the limitations of words and the perception of those words. Photography can be seen in working very much the same way – they are references to reality (the referent) but they never truly connect with that reality due to the limitation of a  two dimensional image and our individual perception of that image.

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