Thursday, July 19, 2007

Errol Morris - great new blog/essay on truth and photos

Erroll Morris is one of the most gifted minds of our generation. His films are in a class of their own. Check out this first in what's going to be a NYT series entitled Zoom: A Filmmaker Uncovers the Hidden Truths of Photos.

Pictures are supposed to be worth a thousand words. But a picture unaccompanied by words may not mean anything at all. Do pictures provide evidence? And if so, evidence of what? And, of course, the underlying question: do they tell the truth?

I have beliefs about the photographs I see. Often – when they appear in books or newspapers – there are captions below them, or they are embedded in explanatory text. And even where there are no explicit captions on the page, there are captions in my mind. What I think I’m looking at. What I think the photograph is about.

I have often wondered: would it be possible to look at a photograph shorn of all its context, caption-less, unconnected to current thought and ideas? It would be like stumbling on a collection of photographs in a curiosity shop – pictures of people and places that we do not recognize and know nothing about. I might imagine things about the people and places in the photographs but know nothing about them. Nothing. (continued)

Thanks to Anthony Kaufman's always interesting blog for the tip.

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