Distorted Reality
An alternate universe of your own creation

I Was There. Just Ask Photoshop. – NYTimes.com – [PDF]

I findthat photographs are snapshots of time. They are memories of a particular slice of life, a moment captured to be remembered for years to come, perhaps even lifetimes away. Photographs can be a way to memorialize pieces of life that bring us to a certain emotional checkpoint.

And that is why I don’t agree with the alteration and manipulation of photographs. I believe in truth. If Ms. Marien says that it is a Western sense of reality that what is in front of the lens has to be true, then I have that Western sense. I believe a photograph is a small documentary. I believe that a photograph, as false as they usually are, still serve to say, as Sy Parrish would say, “Someone cared enough about me in this world to take my picture.”

When you meddle with a photograph and begin to add and remove things and people that weren’t there, you are meddling with reality. You are altering the events that actually took place. I find that violating. A photograph is a reflection of a moment in time and space, and when you alter that you are denying that reality.One may say, but what is reality but what we make of it? I find this disturbing. Memories are what they are, and it is how we deal with them that makes us who we are. By removing an ex-boyfriend from a picture you took together when you went on vacation, you are rewriting your own history. And that is a dangerous thing. It is too much power for a person to have.As clinical psychologist Alan D. Entin says, it is an act of self-deception to alter a photograph. Professional cover models notwithstanding, are we so caught up in how we look to ourselves and to others that we must trick the world into seeing what we see in our own minds? Is it not enough to accept oneself the way they are?

I remember an incident I once had with one of my best friends. We have sincehada falling out, but that is beside the point. He had a photo of himself at a restaurant table, taken when he was out with some friends. Why I wasn’t invited I don’t know, but needless to say I felt a little insulted. But I digress. He felt that it was a very flattering photo and he wanted to use it for his profile picture on Facebook. There was one big problem though: he was not wearing a long sleeve shirt underneath his very nice Italian made wool coat. As such, his arm, propped up on the table by the elbow, revealed at the wrist the fact that he was without a cuff. Aside from this, the photo was a little grainy and underexposed. Being the resident go-to guy for all things tech related, he requested that I enhance his photo.

I very willingly obliged, but his one request rubbed me the wrong way. He wished for me to Photoshop in a nice black collared shirt for him; sleeve, cuff, and collar. I remember balking at such a request. Not only was it demanding for someone of my skill level (after all, I am only a dabbler, and specializing mostly in enhancement and not alteration), it was against my very philosophy. I didn’t agree with him that I should add such things to a photograph. It was a violation of my sense of photography: that what you see is what is reality. By adding clothes onto him that he wasn’t wearing, I would be presenting to the world a falsehood. Though it may be a small lie, I thought to myself, where does it stop? It should never start.

In a world where deceit, deception, and denial are so prevalent, the photograph is one of the last remaining ways or retaining any semblance of a truth in memory. Why do we feel that we must capture an image, only to alter it to our tastes later down the line? What is the point of a photograph anymore, but to simply serve as an emotional crutch or to bolster our egos? Have we gotten to the point where we must be in such a state of denial in order to cope with our lives?

The author would like to thank shlomaster for his image of a broken lens.