What is the difference between what a photo shows and what it appears to show?

Even European journalists can be excessively deferential to authorities. In a series of photo captions published on the Guardian’s website, an unnamed reporter or editor uses the following headline, photo and caption as part of ongoing coverage of the anti-austerity demonstrations in Madrid:

 

“Appears to show”? “Hold back”? The Guardian, Getty Images, or whoever is responsible for the caption and headline, are really heading into the deep waters of cultural criticism here. What is the difference between what a photo actually shows and what it appears to show? René Magritte was well aware of the treachery of images, as was Michel Foucault; perhaps even more relevant is the ability of authorities to convince us that a videotape depicting unjustified police brutality is not, in fact, a videotape depicting unjustified police brutality. Perhaps it just depends on how you look at it, as Bill Hicks pointed out.

Until journalists are willing to accurately describe what they see with their own eyes, hear with their own ears, and document with their own cameras — without fear of offending powerful interests — we can’t really expect them to do their duty as watchdogs of democracy.

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One thought on “What is the difference between what a photo shows and what it appears to show?

  1. I completely agree with this, just because a news source publishes a photo does not make that photo completely accurate. I know in a previous class I made a statement on if there is no picture then the event never happened… and even though I continue to stand by that, I now think that that is only partially true. There was the statement at IdeaFestival last Friday that it is possible to keep the appearance of something the same but alter its reality and I think that these captions are a really good way to do that. I think that someone who looks at a picture in a magazine or newspaper or whatever, is most likely to believe the caption over their own instinct because of “first hand accounts”. They may not want to believe what they think because they may fear that what they think is wrong.
    Another interesting aspect is photo-editing. How much actually occurred in this photograph that we can’t actually see? We don’t know.

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