It’s A Lie That Photographs Don’t Lie!


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It's a lie that photographs don't lie

August 20, 2022

People often say, a photograph doesn't lie. But that itself might be a lie.

Because, the moment a photographer puts his frame on an ordinary thing, ignoring thousands of other ordinary things, it becomes extraordinary. 

At any given point, there are thousands of frames leaping up at the photographer. 

Say, in a garden there is green grass with dew drops shining on the tip. And at the same time on a branch an insect is crawaling towards its prey. Two women under a tree are embracing each other. 

Life is happening all at once. The photographer chooses his frame. One.

And all three pictures will tell a different story about the garden. About that morning.

The photographer chooses his or her story. Either because he can't see everything. Or it's the limitations of his medium. But the frame can capture only one reality. One story. In that moment.

That's why I say, what we see is not the truth. But the truth of the photographer. 

Consider this--on an accident spot, one photographer puts crying people in his frame. Other chooses to capture the policemen trying to take out a man from under a vehicle. The third one is talking and capturing the praying old man who just survived unscathed from this terrible incident.

All three, truths. But different. It is not an absolute truth. Just the truth as captured by the photographer. But there is more to it.

Photographers take many versions of a shot. More so now with digital cameras in every hand. He will choose between them. Asking himself questions--Which photograph captures the mood best? Or, if he is aesthetically involved, would look for a picture with the best layout. Look for the purity of his art.

Again, he is presenting you a chosen reality. His reality.

Now let's come to cropping and filtering. And colour corrections.

What comes to you isn't an actual picture of the world. It is what the photographers and editors want us to see.

In this process, the photo might lie. Have you seen beautiful pictures of landscapes in travel magazines? When you go to visit those places, it isn't so beautiful at all.

Because the bad parts were cropped out. 

So, photographs lie. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. But...

Good photographers use their equipment and the software to enhance the essence of their photographs. They show us the disappointment written on a smiling face. Amazing life lived by a poor man, showing in his rugged hands. A ray of hope in a tearful eye.

They use the medium of photography to show us the world that's right before us, but we can't see. Because photography isn't just about lifting a DSLR or an iPhone and clicking photos. It is about the eye that sees the hidden. The invisible. 

The sixth sense that finds out the extraordinary in the mundane affairs of life.

So, like all arts, photography too lies. And a photo artist makes sure it is a valuable lie.

Make your photographs a window to new worlds for people. Let them shake their heads, why didn't they see what you captured?

While every single photograph might lie. Let us work towards achieving the bigger truth. The realisation that there is greatness in all things around us. So much beauty, dignity, and gravity. If we can see it.

About the author 

Puneet Bhatnagar

Puneet Bhatnagar, popularly known as Creative Punito--is a business innovator. An expert on SME business growth. He is a well-known creativity and innovation trainer, author, columnist and storyteller.

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