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The Reality of Photography and the Photographer

By Roy D. Follendore III

Copyright (c) 2005


September 29, 2005

Photography is NOT reality. This is flaw in the philosophy that the post production of images can produce distortions  In the final analysis photography is never a truly valid documentation of reality but its very existence always demand that it become an additional part and proof of reality. We can change reality but we can't really distort it. Reality is what it is, nothing more and nothing less. Where is the standard for photographic reality? That proof does not exist. We are living beings who visually perceive intuitively and in doing so we make our visual reality. When we get to the details that make up the visual whole, we can not agree what we have seen.

Because of this, one might make a powerful argument that the physical standards for photographic images actually rely on specifications which are manufactured by the camera makers. As a photographer I certainly have absolutely no obligation to photograph for those manufacturers and I doubt that they would claim that anyone does.

It makes perfect sense that misplaced language and ignorant orientation of photography in terms of technology produces societies of ‘photographers’ that form as "camera clubs." There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with that as long as you understand this as a member and you are comfortable with the narrow philosophical orientation of the group.  Just as one doesn't have to actually drive anywhere or be a decent driver to be a fan of the technology of cars or motorcycles, you don't have to actually be a photographer or be anywhere near artistically expressive to appreciate cameras in a camera club. Heck, I personally adore cameras. They are beautiful machines in the relationship to their form and function. I feel that it is just that we artists who uses photography as a medium who are often formless and functionless. As an artist, I happen to enjoy the resulting photographs and images that creatively results from the use of cameras far more than I love the camera.

It is often those photographers who are more interested in manipulating the efforts of other photographers who make up and try to enforce some set of arbitrary codes and ideals about the 'perfect' nature of photography. These people tend to approve organizations with 'pure' or ‘unmanipulated’ competitive standards in competitive shows. They love competition more than the photographs. From what I have observed, these tend to be the less creative individuals whose work for one reason or another may have stopped evolving, so that they are actually creatively demanding the level playing field. What is that all about? I for one have never actually understood why people need photography competitions to drive their creative juices forward. From what I have seen, they actually tend to result in greater visual conformity.       

Those who require absolute standards of purity also seem to have become fearful of their feral potential.  They worry that what they are doing is not exemplary of their own notions of 'pure or undistorted' photography or that they may have somehow short circuited their potential for expression. Their rational definitions and mechanical specifications of design of the photographic process almost always results in their failed attempt to place rules of logic and reasoning over the phenomena of photographic artistic expression. If you happen to be a student of the art history then you should already know that every time this has been attempted it resulted in another artistic genre. The various schools of art were all founded upon such elitist notions of purpose and grandeur which eventually became uninteresting, fizzled or became nondescript footnotes.

As a photographer, I recognize that I make pointless arguments about distortions of photography in the darkroom, digital or otherwise. This endless argument over the rejection of a pure purpose of photography is a pointless battle. I have found that most  people typically join photography and camera clubs in order to socialize. They also join to work through their notions of photography.  This leads me to a point that I do believe should definitely be communicated. 

As photographers many of us have the common simple need to share what we have created, not just what we have observed. Every image we produce represents a part of a unique experience and that image either resonates with an individual viewer’s sense of reality or it does not.  A major part of the whole point of photography as a process is to explore the myriad relationship of random, arbitrary and reasoned ‘formulas’ that allow images that might not otherwise resonate to exist.




Copyright (c) 2001-2007 RDFollendoreIII All Rights Reserved