Some truths on truth and photography
- All photographs are posed.
- The intentions of the photographer are not recorded in a photographic image. (You can imagine what they are, but it’s pure speculation.)
- Photographs are neither true nor false. (They have no truth-value.)
- False beliefs adhere to photographs like flies to flypaper.
- There is a causal connection between a photograph and what it is a photograph of. (Even Photoshopped images.)
- Uncovering the relationship between a photograph and reality is no easy matter.
- Most people don’t care about this and prefer to speculate about what they believe about a photograph.
- The more famous a photograph is, the more likely it is that people will claim it has been posed or faked.
- All photographs are posed but never in the same way.
- Photographs provide evidence. (The question is of what?)
Hi FJP, I'm interested in polishing my fact-checking and research skills. What tools and/or websites would you recommend? Since I do not have any formal fact-checking or research experience outside of academia and cannot afford an unpaid internship, how can build a portfolio to demonstrate those skills? Thank you in advance!
Serendipity’s a beautiful thing. I say this because I was on a train this morning thinking about this question when I started listening to a Radiolab program that tackles this very issue.
So I’d start there. In particular, the segment about Errol Morris’ obsession with a famous Crimean War photograph that Morris first wrote about at the New York Times. Morris later turned this three-part, 25,000 word musing into a book called Believing is Seeing. The book explores how we perceive truth in documentary photography.
Next, I’d check out Nieman Reports. This summer they released “Truth in the Age of Social Media,” a look at how “the BBC, the AP, CNN, and other news organizations are addressing questions of truth and verification.”
And then I’d check out the FJP’s Fact Checking Tag which has a number of ideas about — and links to — fact checking issues and resources.
How to build a portfolio without an internship or some other entry into the field?
Just start doing it. Pick an event and start fact checking it. It’s high political season so there are plenty of things to choose from. I’ve written before about how we need to make our own opportunities by spending the time and effort to build our portfolios. So start a fact checking blog and show the world what you can do.
And remember to show us too. — Michael
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