Seeing, Believing

Errol Morris summarized his main points from his book, Believing is Seeing, via Twitter a while ago:

  1. All photographs are posed.
  2. The intentions of the photographer are not recorded in a photographic image. (You can imagine what they are, but it’s pure speculation.)
  3. Photographs are neither true nor false. (They have no truth-value.)
  4. False beliefs adhere to photographs like flies to flypaper.
  5. There is a causal connection between a photograph and what it is a photograph of. (Even photoshopped images.)
  6. Uncovering the relationship between a photograph and reality is no easy matter.
  7. Most people don’t care about this and prefer to speculate about what they believe about a photograph.
  8. The more famous a photograph is, the more likely it is that people will claim it has been posed or faked.
  9. All photographs are posed but never in the same way.
  10. Photographs provide evidence. (The question is of what?)

The more I read this list the more I feel like this can be aptly applied to other parts of our lives. We create data and information all the time as well as consume it. But, how often do we take a step back and ask whether what we’re reading or seeing is actually true?

With digital manipulation becoming a very big part of our lives, it seems that our senses are going to naturally betray us. I wonder where we’ll go from here and how all of this will shake out.

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