Errol Morris on Photographs and Truth
One of my favorite documentary directors, Errol Morris, has begun blogging for The New York Times. His first article is entitled Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire and explores the nature of photography, photographic context (captions, among other things), and truth. Here's a sample of his article:
So here's a story.
On the evening of May 7th, 1915, the RMS Lusitania was off the coast of Ireland en route to Liverpool from New York when it was torpedoed by a German U-Boat and sank. About 1,200 of the nearly 2,000 passengers and crew aboard drowned, including more than 100 Americans.* The loss of life provoked America out of a hereunto neutrality on the ongoing war in Europe. With cries of "Remember the Lusitania" the U.S. entered into WWI within two years.
To modern viewers, this image of the Lusitania is emotionally uncharged, if not devoid of interest. But to a viewer in the summer of 1915, it was charged with meaning. It was surrounded by many, many other photographs, images and accounts of the sinking of the Lusitania, a cause celÃ¨bre.
If you're interested in photography, documentary, or history, you'll likely enjoy the rest of the article. You can also keep up with his latest posts (there have only been two so far) here. Those interested in the subject of photography and truth may enjoy the 1991 film Proof (with an early appearance by Hugo Weaving), the story of a blind photographer who attempts to use photographic documentation as evidence of truth.