You would think it would be.  You would think that the incontrovertible reality that a photograph records would represent non-negotiable reality.  All parties viewing the picture would be in complete agreement.  You would be mistaken.

I had to have the north side of my garage re-shingled with cedar shingles.  Phone calls were made, bids were taken, a contractor was chosen.  Early inspection showed that the contractor knew what he was doing so I left him alone.  On the evening of the second day I was looking at the jobsite after the guys had gone home and I noticed what looked like water leaking out of the bottom of a big shop-vac.  You can vacuum water with a shop-vac but there was no water around or as a part of the job.  In fact, the vacuum cleaner was not even plugged in.  I pushed against the top of it with my foot and heard a tinkling sound.  It was a hot humid August night and I had a chilled glass with lemonade and ice cubes in my hand.  The ice cubes made a tinkling sound in the glass.  I popped the top of the big commercial sized vacuum on the hot August night and was presented with contractor working class genius.  The entire canister had been gutted and was full of ice cubes and beers.  I returned to the house and got a camera.  One of those big clunky cameras that gives you the picture right away.  I took a picture.

When the shingling job was finished and the truck was loaded with all of the tools I asked the foreman to come into the house for his check.  After writing the check and handing it to him I opened my desk drawer and pulled out the picture of the ice cubes and the beers in the vacuum cleaner.  I thought it would be a fun thing.  Something to share a laugh over.  They had done a good job shingling my garage and I liked them.  He flatly denied the picture.  Not his shop vac, not his ice cubes, not his beers.  The physical two dimensional reality of the photo as a recording device meant nothing.  I put the picture back in my desk drawer and sighed.  You would think that the incontrovertible reality that a photo records would represent non-negotiable reality.  You would be mistaken.

How absurd can this be?  Has your wife or your girlfriend (or both of them) got a great big fat rear end?  Take a picture and show it to her.  You may be surprised to learn and informed in no uncertain terms that the woman in the picture is not her.  Debating the point may not be the best use of your time.  If you are a photography gear head reading the photography magazines and perusing up-and-coming auction lot listings you are buried by a world of two dimensional reality beyond debate.  But what of more contemplative photo matters?  I'd like to see someone write an essay on when a photo is not a photo.

Example:  there are  conspiracy theorists who deny we landed on the moon.  The photos that were taken are denied.  The alternative reality theories are detailed and passionate.  Clearly to these people a picture may be a picture, but at other times a picture may not be a picture.  Holding a physical object, a photo, in your hand does not necessarily make the visual content real.  Not in their minds.  To these people, a picture may be a picture, or a picture may not be a picture.  It certainly shows the open mind of the deranged.  I think it would be fun to have a discussion about when a photo is not a picture.  To treat the subject seriously.  What do you think?

Not on board yet?  Need some conversation starters?  Ok, how about pictures of ghosts, or X-rays that doctors reach wildly different conclusions about, or subatomic particle trace evidence on an impact plate (is it a neutrino or not--not everybody accepts the photo as evidence of the content), cranial or full body auras (if you do not believe in auras are you going to accept the photo), etc.  What's the challenge?  What triggers the discussion?  Well, if you don't accept the theory, if you deny categorically the idea (ghosts); then you can not believe the photo.  So the photo is not a picture.  You boxed  yourself in with a reality denying posture.  Consider writing an essay on this subject and sending it in to this wonderful photography website.  I love gear heads and technology talk but thinking outside of the envelope can be fun also.

Sincerely yours,

Dana