Hist 697: Detente with Photoshop

*Please pardon my dust. I was experimenting with themes and homepages and general web presence but have yet to make this one beautiful. *

I really enjoyed the readings for today. The extended piece by Morris was very interesting, both because Morris is a good story teller and because it required me to think about expectations surrounding images in general and photographs in particular. Personally, I find myself generally confused by the debates about truth and authenticity that surrounded the FSA photographs. Photographs conceal as much as they reveal – they record a moment in time but do not record the context. They are as true as they are untrue. And they are the product of an intentional creator – even if the content is unmoved, the frame is chosen and some things are intentionally excluded. They are not neutral – they are created intentionally and need to be used critically.

But I wonder if these questions about truth and authenticity need to be contextualized. Why was it so important during the 1930s and 40s for images to be “true”? Why do my own intuitions align more with those of Bill Ganzel, who dismisses much of the controversy surrounding the photographs because they are “true” to the larger reality, regardless if the particulars of the situation were altered? Have expectations about images changed? Or are similar expectations and ideas expressed when dealing with digitally enhanced images? (In other words, why do H&M’s digital models cause a stir?)

My intuition is that questions about truth and authenticity are both unanswerable and unhelpful, but that discussing expectations about images and focusing on reading images critically provide a way to deal with some of the questions that the FSA images raise. The images were created within a particular context, a particular thought-space about what images do. And I think investigating that thought-space is helpful in interpreting the images themselves, both as shaping and being shaped by the larger culture.

But I think I am not the only one to respond that, yes, images must be dealt with critically, just like text. Megan and Geoff have already written eloquently of the need to treat all of ones evidence critically.

In other news, I spent some time this week experimenting with the tools described in Lynda and, while I have nothing that is ready to be seen, I am happy to report that there is a general easing of tension between Photoshop and myself. The program is incredibly powerful and after it dealt beautifully with some ink spots, I have become less antagonistic toward its complexity and adobe-ness. Which is good, because I am going to have to spend a lot of time with it in the next two weeks…

*I commented on Megan’s post.