Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The camera can lie

Some say that history is written by the victors and there is a strong case that this is correct. There is an even stronger case that history is written by the historians and among the historians I include those who take photographs, not just those who do the reporting.

When the miners were on strike in the 1970s we saw clashes between the police and those on strike and in this case history may well have been written by those with a camera. Well I was recently talking to a retired police officer who told me that he was part of those clashes but they were artificially created for the cameras. In fact the police and strikers were getting on well, sharing food and drink and talking in a friendly way, but when cameras turned up then a clash was stage-managed. There is also a famous photograph of a spontaneous kiss in front of the Town Hall in Paris by Robert Doisneau. It wasn't spontaneous at all. It was posed. The camera can lie.

Yesterday I was talking to a Liberal Democrat member who was at the election count on May 3rd. He told me that he saw a photographer who was waiting at a distance to take his photo and was disappointed that his photo had been taken in the moment that he scratched his head. He had been aware of the photographer and wanted his photo taken to be a good one. The photograph highlighted concern. If the photographer waited long enough he may have been able to take a photo of a yawn or a smile. The photo could have been a reflection of any emotion that you care to mention and then history is written in the way that the photographer wishes. At least when a photographer asks for the photo then the person knows what is happening.

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