Define truth

(photography doesn’t necessarily lie but people do!!)

Cambridge Definition of ‘Truth’

  1. The quality of being true
  2. The real facts about a situation, event or person
  3. Used to show or emphasize that something is true
  4. Formal a fact or principle which is thought to be true by most people

(Personal note: in regard to number 3. does this mean that manipulating a scenario or staging is acceptable?)

(personal note: in regard to number 4. so if everyone believes the lie then it becomes true?)

Give an example of how digital media can compromise your definition

When an image is shown to the public it’s usually taken as fact even with people being apparently more savvy and cynical so ‘They say the camera never lies.’ may not be used as much as it used to but maybe we should start using the next part of Cesar Romero’s well known quote , ‘It lies every day.’

George Orwell’s 1984 book tells of how news was manipulated to twist history to suit ‘The Party’ (the name used for the Government). This is a book of fiction yet the manipulation of Photography dates back to the 1840s with the use of scissors and glue. (ref?)

The British Library recently showed it’s first major photographic exhibition, ‘Points of View’, a exhibition of the Pioneers of photography. It was noted in the text that accompanied this particular photograph at the exhibition that Albert Frisch took photographs of the figure in a studio, which was then ‘cut and pasted’ into the forest scenery which was taken from another photograph. Apparently the same backdrop was seen in several other photographs from this series.

Albert Frisch 1840/1918 – Original title:
Amaúas, India Antropophages, position pour frapper avec la Guiarú (Massue)


With photographs staged or manipulated to such high standards it can become difficult for most people to know if the photograph is based on fact or, has the story (which is not usually written by the photographer) and it’s context changed. For Truth to be justified then an agreement from others preferably experts is sought (or even enough amateurs perhaps?), but what if a couple of people disagree? Does this then mean an agreement can not be reached? Does that mean it’s automatically an ‘untruth’?

Truth is something that people rely on and it’s hoped that it’s not based on emotion, personal gain or ideology but this seems to be difficult to break down and depends on the particular situation is. For example, different religions view their own ideology as the truth and even individuals who may think they are being neutral can still give a prejudice to their opinions (Newspaper Reporters may say they are being neutral but their own assumptions, culture etc can still ‘bend’ their view to a particular perspective).

A scientists findings can be dismissed (The Earth is not flat!!) but if not proved (ie: witnessed in person) or the majority don’t agree or even like the idea, then it will be decided as untrue (see personal note on truth definition above).
We can all have opinions but facts are subjective and individuals can’t necessarily have their own truths – but is this correct?

Conclusion: Truth is subjective and depends on the situation, it does not have a black and white answer! It also depends on the individuals/social upbringing, perhaps the type of person who automatically trust all are easily fooled and for others who not  see this unconditional ‘honesty’ in others might already question such things (this blog post has been written by a Photographic Retoucher who was never that trusting of photographs in the first place (or any other medium for that matter) and tends to wonder if the photographs featured in Newspapers do actually reflect back the ‘story’ being told.. most of the time the answer would be a resounding no!)

Terms like True have been problems only for philosophers’. Richard Rorty

Rorty, R.(2007) What's the Use of Truth?: Richard Rorty and Pascal Engel, Columbia University Press (23 Feb 2007)  
Truth definition, Cambridge Online Dictionary, [Internet], available from <> [accessed December 2009]
Brainy Quote Website, Cesar Romero quote, [Internet] available from <> [accessed December 2009]
Alter, J, (1990), When Photographs Lie, Advances In 'Electronic Imaging' Are Assaulting The Meaning Of The Picture, NEWSWEEK issue 30/06/1990, [internet] available from <> [accessed 21 January 2010] Amaúas, Indian of the Amazon Basin, Albert Frisch, 1867-1868, Geographic mapping: South America Amazonia Brazil, Museum of Ethnology Vienna - Points of View Exhibition, British Library, London, <> [accessed 19 November 2009]