The Bigger Picture: Visual Archives and the Smithsonian
What should “reality” look like?
In selecting participants for click! photography changes everything, one of the issues I wanted to explore was, “Just how photographic do the images of ‘reality’ need to be?” Many people assume that the quantity and level of detail captured in a photographic image—what some describe as “indexicality,” the point-for-point correspondence between what’s in front of a camera’s lens and what can be seen in an image—is a guarantee of truthfulness. But, are there instances where that’s not the case? Maybe there is too much information in some photographs, and not enough in others. To figure that out, I contacted Jos Stam, a multiple Academy Award winner who’s been instrumental in creating software programs that make special effects in the movies exciting and convincing. In the piece Stam has just written for click!, he explains that while we want and expect photography to be accurate in the ways it renders the world, sometimes—given how our eyes, brains, and cameras work—the most powerfully convincing images turn out not to be non-photographic ones. Jos Stam’s comments are provocative, and raise some interesting, and even bigger questions: What kinds of data, emotions, or sensory experiences can’t be captured or represented in photographic image? And, is that ever a problem?