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“You Take 35 Degrees Out of 360 Degrees and Call It a Photo”


Jonathon Keats of Forbes has a great piece discussing truth in photography and Joel Sternfeld’s 1978 photo of a fireman shopping for pumpkins as a house burns in the background:

Sternfeld recognizes the passive-aggressive coerciveness of pictures, and enlists their manipulative power. “You take 35 degrees out of 360 degrees and call it a photo,” he told the Guardian in a 2004 interview. “No individual photo explains anything. That’s what makes photography such a wonderful and problematic medium.”

[…] A century ago, anything a camera captured was widely accepted as fact. Today every image is presumed to be contrived. We’re wary of underhanded propaganda and attuned to journalistic perspective. Yet as concerned as we’ve become about pictures, we remain all too confident about our unmediated vision, which is also inherently selective, limited by when and where we’re looking. Sternfeld’s pictures remind us that, like a camera, our eyes are essentially passive. Like photography, observation is an act of authorship.

Here’s a Calvin and Hobbes comic exploring the exact same issue.

Do Not Trust This Joel Sternfeld Photograph [Forbes via POTB]

Image credit: Photograph by Joel Sternfeld