Curious Frame - What are fakes?
Issue 50 - 3 March 2023
What’s in a picture? What does it all mean? Are they true or false? Perhaps it’s best to look at photos as being somewhere between the two. Curious is my middle name. Always asking questions. Perhaps the best questions don’t have easy answers.
In this issue I am using multiple exposures and photo montages using found photos. The final product is mine. The individual images were taken by others. You could say that they are interpretations. We are always interpreting those things that we see. Photography is our hieroglyphics.
Thank you for joining me on my journey. Did you know that you can read the entire archive at your leisure online and also in the Substack app?
If you find value in reading Curious Frame, you can now support my research and writing into my thoughts on photography. But no sweat if you’re unable to contribute. The newsletter is still free for everyone. A very big thanks to those who have contributed!
What are fakes?
A fake is something that is pretending to be something that it isn’t. It might take us time to discover that something is fake. But since we don’t often spend much time examining images, it tends to be that we believe that seeing is believing. How could it not be?
Seeing is Believing is the subject of Issue 33. It’s a subject that is difficult to exhaust. But here I’m looking at the idea of fakes. Real and fake are not necessarily polar opposites. Forgeries are false copies. Plagiarism is stolen text.
Fakes are designed to trick us into believing that something is true. Do we put too much trust in photos? It’s true that we can also put too much trust trust in written or spoken words. But images tend to have a greater impact on our beliefs.
I like the word believe. In general, when one says “I know,” one doesn’t know, one believes. Marcel Duchamp
This subject interests me now because of the advances of AI. It would appear to be taking over words and images. You can find fake photos everywhere on the internet. But what do they mean unless we are somehow invested in believing in them? Are AI photos fakes? Perhaps all photos are merely constructions. Reflections of reality.
Is there a way to neither believe nor disbelieve in the appearance of images? I ask many questions and perhaps they don’t all come with neat answers. Perhaps we need to upset the true/false paradigm.
Photographs do not translate from appearances. They quote from them. John Berger
Is a glossy ad of a famous person promoting a product real? Or more likely, it’s just a bit of fancy commercialism trying to get us to part with our money. Does that make it true or false? The fact is, if you aren’t a bit cynical of the images that we are bombarded with on a daily basis, you will likely believe it’s true and move on.
Images are always manipulated. Some more than others. They are staged to attract our attention. Often they are designed in a manner that is merely superficial. They appeal to the lowest common denominator.
It might be possible that candid photos are the closest we can get to truthful photos. But even those photos are not entirely objective. Oops, I’m going off on a tangent here. We either like photos or not. With the ones we like, we presumably spend more time looking at them. Maybe we even believe them. Can we believe fake photos with any level of emotion invested in them?
Are all those dreadful selfies real? Why do people always pose with a cheese smile when they take them? Maybe they are just faking it until they make it. Psyching themselves into believing that they are happy. When I witness them being taken, I am horrified.
Photography is always a partial truth. It’s neither fact nor fiction. I always found it interesting that poetry is considered nonfiction while fiction is fiction. Some fiction is actually more revealing of truth than facts. Some photos attract your attention and you believe them for whatever reason you feel.
Ignorance is bliss when it comes to art and those images that appeal to you. We are always separating what we like and what we believe from all the other garbage that passes into our field of vision without choosing.
The real or fake debate is only really important when we believe things that aren’t true and that have unpleasant consequences. Can we rethink this dichotomy and not assign it to truth or fakes? I’ve always preferred nuance in art. I am very much avoiding the whole arena of politics as I don’t really follow the fake news trails. But in an upcoming issue I will be writing about fake writing as well.
Comments are welcome and I certainly left a number of unanswered questions in this issue. Bring it on.
The MF Gallery
I have very exciting news! You can now see and purchase some of my street photography and photo montages in The MF Gallery. It is wonderful to have my work recognized. I spend my time creating as it is what I adore. Thank you to the MF Gallery for curating some of my work and displaying it. Do stop by and check it out as well as the many other photographers in the gallery.
Good article. In my opinion there’s too much fiction in the discourse photography is dealing with since its beginnings between photography and truth. Who really needs distinguishing one from the other? The queen of England was delighted with the present she got of that photograph fake by Reijlander, The two ways of life: a wonderful pastiche collage. Since then photographs have got lots of philosophical definitions to solve the dichotomy real versus fake. Fictions