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Photography, Mockery, Falsification of Reality, and Does it Really Matter?

Thomas Bernhard – one of most influential authors of the last century

Photography – a Monstrous Falsification?

There is a book I love, and it’s probably one of the best books ever written in the last century: Extinction, by Thomas Bernhard (original Title: “Auslöschung“)

The book has nothing to do with photography, but in one short passage, the protagonist of the story stumbles on a picture of his parents, that he thinks does not represent, who they really were, and that triggers him to one of the many rants you can read in the book.

Every photograph—whoever took it, whoever is pictured in it—is a gross violation of human dignity, a monstrous falsification of nature, a base insult to humanity. […] Photography is the greatest mockery in the world, the ultimate mockery of the world.

Now, let’s skip Bernhard’s stroke of genius, where, if you read carefully, he basically flips the whole point around, in reality accusing the hypocritical nature of the society he lives in, and hence, photography, by being a “monstrous falsification“, is nothing but a accurate mirror image of the many hypocrisies, falsehoods and contradictions of modern world.

But we’ll talk about it when we meet for a beer one day. I just strongly recommend you the book, and as The Wall Street Journal writes:

Not every raving maniac is a genius. Many are called but few are chosen. It’s a pretty exclusive club, but Bernhard made it. . . . Like Swift, Bernhard writes like a sacred monster. . . . He is a remarkable literary performer: a man who goes to extremes in ways that vivify our sense of human possibilities, however destructive.

  • AmazonUS – Extinction, by Thomas Bernhard
  • AmazonDE – Auslöschung, von Thomas Bernhard

I just start with Thomas Bernhard, because of Luminar 4! (yeah, I know, my mind can take strange ways sometimes).

More precisely, your comments about the fake sky replacement.

Some of you think it’s cool, and some think it’s a “monstrous falsification” of reality.

I did stay out of this discussion so far, but now I’d like to say a few words.

If we think back at Thomas Bernhard, the risk of falsification is intrinsic to the art of photography. And maybe, until a certain degree, also inevitable. So what’s the problem of replacing the sky? Is it any different than removing a little mole from a face of a model? Aren’t both falsifications of reality?

Or isn’t removing a mole even worse, since that’s a permanent condition of a person, whereas the sky changes from day to day anyway, so replacing the sky is actually less of a falsification than removing something that won’t ever change?

The point is one, and only one: you are all right!

Those who say they would never replace the sky, since they do not want to keep memories of moments that never happened, and those who decide to combine several real images into one and to make a composite image, just for the sake of creating something beautiful.

It’s one of those topics, where there is no right or wrong. It’s your personal judgment that matters.

The only advice I feel to give is that, if you are going to share a composite image on social media, just add a quick note that this is composite art work. So we can enjoy its beauty, but also know that there is some additional art work behind it.

Sorry for this more philosophical digression. But you know… we are Fujifilm shooters, we don’t just think at specs all the time ;).

And since we speak of Luminar 4, down below, you can see a guy faking the milky way into the sky. And you know what? I am fine with it (as long as I know it’s a composite).