Truth, at best, is always an unstable concept, especially when combined with the medium of photography. This fascinating short video from Jamie Windsor takes one of the most famous portraits ever taken, reveals its deception, and explores the implications.
Windsor unpicks the tale of the Migrant Mother, an iconic photograph taken by Dorothea Lange in 1936 that came to define the era of the Depression in the United States (and you can read here about how it was edited). As one of the subject’s sons later noted: “I don’t believe Dorothea Lange was lying, I just think she had one story mixed up with another. Or she was borrowing to fill in what she didn’t have.” Given our reverence for honesty and transparency, is it important when a lie is used to communicate a truth? (If that's a question that interests you, you may wish to check out this article.)
Windsor briefly makes mention of Judith Butler’s pivotal work, Gender Trouble, suggesting that performance of identity has deep implications. Sociologist Erving Goffman would certainly agree, and if you’ve some time to kill, it’s worth tracking down his book, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.
In fact, if you want to take a few hours away from Netflix and explode your brain a little, sit down and watch Ways of Seeing on YouTube. If you’ve not encountered John Berger’s ideas before, you may end up with an entirely different understanding of how photography — and society itself — functions.
Thoughts? Leave a comment below.