Are photographers telling the truth?

One of my favourite bloggers, James at Country Corners, raised an interesting point in his blog yesterday (A winter walk in Spring part one – read it here).

He had taken a photo of a cottage in splendid isolation … then panned out to show the power lines on one side and the factory on the other.

“Photos rarely tell the truth, or at least the whole truth,” he said.

This struck a chord with me particularly after Man and I went walking around our Nottingham neighbourhood yesterday for the Phoneography Challenge – My Neighbourhood.

Man lives on a large estate in Nottingham. As we wandered around … never more than a mile from home … we were discussing the sort of photos we could take with our phones and how we could give viewers of those pictures whatever impression of a Nottingham estate that we chose.

We could have opted to do an entire album on inner city squalor … the graffiti, the litter in the hedges, the dog poo on the pavement, the metal grills tightly pulled down over the shop fronts, the boarded up windows or the contents of someone’s house sitting on their front garden.

Equally we could have chosen to take photographs of some of the immaculately manicured front gardens we saw, the series of bird feeders next to a average sized bush that must have had, without any exageration at all, at least 20 sparrows sitting in it waiting for us to pass so they could have some food, the five-tiered cakes in a shop window, the daffodils and crocuses on the verges of the road or the stone eagles atop the gateposts of a very average-sized house.

All those photographs would have been actual true pictures of things we had seen on our walk. If we had published a series of one lot, or a series of the other, they would have given very different impressions. But neither could have been said to be a true reflection of the neighbourhood we were walking around.

You would have had an impression of my neighbourhood entirely manipulated to the view I wanted you to see.


I think that would make quite an interesting long-term photo project for me. I might give it a go.

Now I intend to do another one of those My Neighbourhood projects around the area I live in in Hampshire. Shall I show you a small estate in a small town which has limited facilities and nothing much going on, or shall I show you a lovely countryside retreat with open common land and lots of nature? Who knows, I suppose it will depend what mood I’m in :)

In the meantime, here’s a couple of pictures from the lake, which is about a mile or so from my home, that I took last Monday morning,

  1. It’s true, and not just of photographs…we can choose to look, see, share and experience a huge variety of experiences just by the way we choose to focus. Five people will describe the same event differently, because we all have different filters and a different focus….now that’s given me inspiration for a post :-)

    • Lol … I shall look forward to reading it. I must admit I find the different inspiration and the different perspective very interesting.

  2. We all see the good with the bad as we walk along, and hopefully we see the dog poo before stepping in it. Your long term project sounds interesting. Maybe you could do both perceptions about the same areas on two seperate projects and then compare. Same thing happens in theatre….recently I saw a serious play about conspiracy theories….apparently I saw a different play from my two companions…one companion argued with me at dinner and on the drive home that such and such didn’t happen (BUT IT DID!)…and the other companion just hummed.

    • I find it interesting that people can have completely different perspectives on things. I have had the same with a performance, made me wonder whether we had been in different places :)

  3. Thanks for the link Dory. It sounds like an interesting project but keep safe when photographing the seedier side of life.

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