Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time

Reality Bites


I gotta say that reality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Even for those who think they know what it is.  I sure as hell don’t.  Know what it means, that is.  I guess you could say it’s a synonym for “truth”.  But then you’d have to define that to everyone’s satisfaction.  That ought to keep you occupied for a while.  It’s like they used to say on “The X – Files”:

“The Truth is Out There”

Well, yeah, maybe it is.  But saying it’s out there is one thing.  Telling somebody what “It” is is quite another.  We’re all like eye witnesses at a trial.  If there are 4 of us who “saw” the same thing, more than likely there are 4 versions of what the “truth” is.  God help the defendant whose life depends on “eye witnesses”.

It’s the same with photography.  Taking a picture and labelling it “reality” only tells me what your view of that elusive concept happens to be.  You may be right or wrong about that, but how am I supposed to know which it is?  I should take your word for it?  Why?  What do I do when someone else comes along with a different version?

Quit trying to connect the dots between images of things and “reality”.  At best, the one might be a reflection of the other (at least in someone’s eyes).  That’s all it can be.


2 Responses to “Reality Bites”

  1. Juha Haataja

    I nice tight posting on an important topic. However, I very much dislike the idea that truth (or reality) is relative and that any two claims could be of equal value. (I do note that you are not claiming this, but you are not disclaiming this either.)

    Although philosophically there is no single commonly accepted definition of reality (or truth), I very much believe that some claims have a stronger grasp on reality than others. And conversely, that there are claims whose touch on reality is nonexistent or at least close to nonexistent.

    So, returning to photography, I don’t think that any image or a series or images can represent reality (or truth), but I think some photographs convey a little bit of evidence towards an approximation of truth. And collectively these photographs can help us to get a grip on “reality” (however you want to define it) and help us to understand some little part of our own existence.

  2. Cedric

    If truth (reality) is not relative than it cannot ever be defined. At least not with the use of language. The reason being that language, by nature, is dualistic or relative. Perhaps this is why philosophies like zen do not seek to describe truth but rather just point to it. If that is the case than photography has great potential as a pointer to truth and reality since an image does not generaly require words. Of course the trick as a viewer is to ignore the thoughts and labels that pop up in our heads as these will only filter the image and distort the reality in line with our beliefs and our memories. And since beliefs and memories are relative it stands to reason that they cannot be the truth. The trick is to percieve or see without conceptualising.
    When we understand that there is only seeing happening then perhaps reality reveals itself. But even that is just another concept.


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