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Let’s begin with a cautionary tale: as wonderful as this technology is, and as many great things we can do with it, like repairing damage, accenting with color, and making our own art, we have to be aware that it can go too far. Case in point: this photo. Yes, her kneecaps have been digitally erased. Let’s not go overboard.
I was downright gleeful when reading this series, a very rare feeling for me in this class. Morris makes precisely the argument I do – photographs are NOT objective texts. They are just as biased and manipulated as textual sources. Every aspect of a photo is staged. Take a look at some photos I took this summer. Without context, do you know where this is? Or what it is?
How about now?
It’s the point Curtis made in Part 2, and Morris made in Part 5. Photography, all photography, is constructed, and we as historians need to be aware of that. The photographer chooses a subject, arranges the shot, adds or subtracts elements, and takes the shot. The addition and subtraction doesn’t need to be physical. As Morris pointed out, just by selecting certain elements to include, the photographer is editing the scene. It’s not reality. As historians, we need to remember that every photograph is as constructed as a text document. It’s not only a good idea to remember, but it leads to an excellent question: WHY did the photographer choose to compose the shot this way? Photographers, even amateurs, bring their own argument to the shot and construct it to reflect that argument. Do you know what the argument of the first photo is?
To go back to Morris’ point in Part 5, it’s not just the composition of the image, but the selection of which image(s) to publish. What if I’d provided this series? Do you know what the argument of the first photo is now?
The whole series makes it clear what the subject is, and the immediate reactions would related to the artistic composition, rather than “What am I looking at?” And the argument behind the photo is clearer. Most of the photographs we’ll use as sources won’t be snapshots taken on vacation – but even those are composed. Conscious thought went into these photos, where we stood, the angle of the camera, the position of the sun, how the reflections would work, all to create this more interesting photo.
Coffee on me for the first person to figure out the first photograph’s argument.