Exercise – ‘Seeing is Believing’

The article Seeing is Believing and the following discussion under the comments was very interesting and a trigger to contemplate again about what our reality is, how we can communicate it and which elements signify as proof of this reality. Jose posted an interview with Slavoj Zizek about the meaning of the reality of the virtual, which clarified many aspects of which I know they were there, but had never given words to. Zizek distinguishes the imaginary virtual, the symbolic virtual and the real virtual and shows how these virtuals are constructed and what makes people define its reality.

His idea of the imaginary virtual talks about the process of subconsciously eliminating elements of what we see and experience and behave as if ‘the whole strata of the other person are not there‘. This concept touches on the questions that I ask myself when creating an image. Which elements do I want to show? what information am I leaving behind? How does the information I give establish the imaginary impression of the reality that is shown in the photograph?

Zizek explains the symbolic virtual by means of the example of Father Christmas. The belief in Father Christmas is attributed to the beliefs and accounts of others, we only have to presuppose an other person to believe. Based on the credibility of the others’ account the belief gets stronger or weaker. The accounts are enforced by visuals, signs and artifacts that all confirm the truth of the reality. The question is whether a photograph would be considered proof of the symbolic virtual that could let it rise to the ‘real virtual’.

In other comments I learnt that photographs are not considered proof in court cases, since they are so easily manipulated. In that sense, I believe that a photograph on its own could never serve as a ‘proof’ on its own. A lot depends on the creator of the image, the circumsntances under which it was made, the goal for which it was made, etc. Eileen noted “I think that human beings have known how to manipulate our reactions to visual stimuli for a very long time.” It is important to know the reasons why photographs are shown and for which audience in order to connect a notion of ‘truth’ to it. As Stan Dickinson notes: ‘Truth lies in the beholding, not in the portraying’.

In order to establish whether a photograph can serve as proof, I think it is important to let some time pass by and find other signs that can establish the fact that is being proven. As Sarah noted, ‘as time goes by, it becomes more believable‘. Even then, reality could turn out to be differently than how it was recorded. Maybe Osama was still alive when they had pronounced him dead and killed later, maybe he is locked up in Guantanomo Bay. Same facts will always remain hidden, but I do think that reality has a way of catching up. It is important to trust in that, especially these days when we are bombarded with ‘alternative facts’

WeAreOCA. (2017). Seeing is Believing – WeAreOCA. [online] Available at: https://weareoca.com/photography/seeing-is-believing/ [Accessed 22 Mar. 2017].

YouTube. (2017). Slavoj Zizek | The Reality of the Virtual | Full Film. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUTgcYxXlZA [Accessed 22 Mar. 2017].


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