The Reality Fallacy

What is real?

What isn’t real?

Who cares?

Sometimes what isn’t real is more interesting.  Sometimes what isn’t real is obvious.  Other times it isn’t.  Many think that photographs are reality.  This leads them to feel somehow cheated when they learn that an image has been altered.  They can’t get their minds around the fact that no photograph is reality!  The photograph is a depiction of how the photographer saw the image (or what the photographer wants to show) or, in the case of a poor photographer, simply what the machine called a camera made out of the light patterns hitting it’s sensor.  The exact same subject can be depicted from a high angle or a low angle, slightly overexposed to appear more high key or underexposed for darkness, depicted with high contrast or low, or with a warm color balance or a cool one.  All of these choices and any combinations of them will lead to very different “realities” of a subject that actually can only have one!  All are photographs.  If one is real, the others must not be?  Or maybe none of them are.  The earliest battlefield photographs from the Civil War honestly look awful.  They aren’t sharp, have little contrast (or sometimes too much) and are obviously black and white.  Anyone who thinks the battlefield actually looked like that please raise your hand.

Working closely photographing bodybuilders and figure athletes has also opened my eyes to other aspects of what reality is and what it is not.  This was brought home to me when a group of artists reviewing my work had issues with what they considered “not real” about some of the models.  Surgically enhanced breasts in some images were too “fake” for them in some instances.  Some also had issues with shaved pubic areas.  These things are a reality of the sport. (Not that surgically enhanced breasts are needed or even judged, but there are more here than in the general population.)   Bodybuilding is not about reality, but the quest for physical perfection.  Anyone who thinks 4% body fat  is normal is simply delusional.  I am not saying its not interesting or beautiful…Just that it is not normal….its not real.  Peaking for a competition is not a normal state, otherwise “peaking” or pre-contest diets would not exist.  In a sense its no more a real state than surgically enhanced breasts…Its the body manipulated to a temporary state…We won’t even get into the application of the tan!

Reality is a fallacy.  Just because its not “real” doesn’t automatically mean its not good or beautiful.  That has nothing to do with it in my opinion.  Photography is not reality.  It’s no more about reality than painting or sculpture.