At long last I have got around to completing this exercise, which requires me to provide a 200 word response to the first three sections of Transparent Pictures: On the Nature of Photographic Realism’ by Kendall L Walton.
The camera never lies – it can’t, because it’s inanimate. It faithfully displays a 2-d single point perspective version of whatever is in front of it. The same is true of photographs – they faithfully display whatever it is they denote. Misleading and lies are human attributes, and we can as easily misinform with photographs as we can inform. The photographer chooses what is in the image. This has little to do with their manner of reproduction – and in any case old arguments about the nature of photographic realism are confounded by modern digital techniques. Currently we can as easily produce a photo of a fantasy as a reality.
The link between production technique and veracity has been broken. A photograph’s only claim to more than a superficial visual realism now depends on our trust in the manner of its production. We do not need to invoke fanciful notions about new ways of seeing. For the averagely sophisticated viewer, if we trust the source we trust the image. In this sense photographs are now firmly alongside other kinds of documents, written, graphic or object. In the long run I feel this is good for photography – unquestioning faith is a heavy burden to carry.