We do not want photographs to be fakes; we expect them to not deceive us, we want them to be real, and we want them to be true.
We do of course know that sometimes they are not and that they often do not show us the way things really are. This does not mean that we accept to be lied to — though it happens anyway. Remember George Bush, Jr, on Thanksgiving 2003, when, with the American troops in Iraq, he was showing off a plastic turkey to the cameras? Or, more recently, at the Olympic Games in Beijing where — courtesy of the political leadership — a nice looking young girl was moving her lips for the cameras — she looked the part but couldn't sing — while the voice of another, less beautiful girl could be heard?
The problem here is that, a few months or years from now, we will (if we knew it at all) have forgotten this contextual information and that only the images will stay with us. "Image outlives fact," the photographer Lisa Kahane pointed out. Propagandists know this, we should too.
However: Our longing for the truth, and nothing but the truth, is limited. Most of the photos published after the terror attacks in Madrid on 11 March 2004 were doctored, severed limbs, for instance, were removed. We do not mind such manipulation, in fact, we approve of it. Sure, photos in newspapers should reflect reality but, hey, they should not interfere with breakfast.
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