Exercise -Realism

Kendall Walton states in his article that looking at photographs brings viewers in perceptual contact with the world or, since the article is touching on the idea of the realism, reality. Photography provokes a certain kind of seeing that asks for a different mode of perception. ‘Facts about our discriminative capacities might be said to create similarities relative to our conceptual scheme, thereby establishing the relevant correlations.’

It is very fruitful to think about how we perceive reality and which beliefs make us conclude that what we see and experience is actually true. Photographs take a step further and ask us to consider whether what is in the frame is a true depiction of what was in front of the camera at that time. I agree with Walton that photographs have a different effect on our sense of what is real, but think that he misses a few important factors that establish our concept of reality. First of all, when looking at photographs, we know that it was taken in a split second of a moment, not giving space for making changes in a scene which would be possible while painting. Second, because most viewers are unaware of the processes that take place when taking a photograph, the creative and conceptual decisions that are made in post processing and framing, they assume a certain ‘what you see is what you get’, while when painting or drawing they know that each stroke is a deliberate choice to depict reality or not.

As soon as viewers find out how much a photographer can alter reality in the final image, they more and more start to let go of the idea of a photograph being the exact representation of the subject in that moment of time and open up to the idea that a photograph is a result of the creative decisions of the photographer in portraying a slice of reality taken in a split second of time.

Walton, K.L. (1984) ‘Transparent pictures: On the nature of photographic realism’, Noûs, 18(1), p. 67. doi: 10.2307/2215023.




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