How Many Fibs Do Photos Generate?

It’s easy to fib these days – via images, but in the past it was more difficult. Or was it?

Sixty years ago a photographer turned up outside a London school where the teachers were on strike. Some boys were milling around. “Go into the playground and I’ll put your photo in my paper.” When the photo appeared, the caption read, “While the teachers strike, the pupils play football in the playground.” The words were misleading and the photo showed youngsters in the playground kicking a ball. There was no date to the photo while these days the dates are there despite the fact that photos lie. Or…do they? Because when you video or snap that accident, what with other evidence, you improve your case, don’t you?

Flat-earthers don’t like photos from “outta” space showing a round earth. Was Kennedy assassinated? Was that terrorist attack fabricated? Unfortunately, given we fake images every day, we are in trouble. Did concentration camps exist? Did they kill millions? If we want to have nightmares, we study those 1939 – 1945 photos. We use other criteria. We realise the expressions on the victims’ faces are (through imaginative empathy) beyond our disbelief.

Kafka, the guy who wrote “Metamorphosis” – about parental cruelty to a son who turned into a bug – wrote that photographs are lies. What a bastard! He also wrote that human beings turn into insects. What a bastard! He also wrote that we are indifferent to suffering. What a bastard! He also wrote that parents wish to discard a problematic child. What a bastard!

Now, tell me truly, do photos fib? I’m sure you will tell me the truth….but for now let’s go get Kafka.


What do you think?


Written by Jonathan Finch

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