More on FAQ #221

221. If all photographs are “subjective” — as TCQ says they are — how can any photographs be “trustworthy” too?

Millions of things in life are both “subjective” and “trustworthy.” If we trusted nothing in life that is “subjective,” we could barely function.

If you’ve ever taken a photo that you trust, then you already understand how something can be both “trustworthy” and “subjective” (because all photographs are subjective — including yours).

For example, a genuine declaration of affection to a loved one is usually “subjective” but not “untrustworthy.” The same is true of a coach’s assessment of a player’s skills, a teacher’s assessment of a student’s capabilities, and a doctor’s assessment of a patient’s condition.

If “subjective” means “providing one perspective among many possible perspectives,” then every recollection, every report, and every portrayal of anything is “subjective” — from newspaper articles to court depositions to a spouse’s recounting of his or her day — but that obviously doesn’t mean these things are never “trustworthy.”

The same is true of photographs (which are, of course, “portrayals”).

If all photographs are “subjective,” and if most people find at least some photographs to be “trustworthy” — starting with their own snapshots that are left “as is” — then photographs obviously can be both “subjective” and “trustworthy.”

Finding which of those “subjective” photographs are most “trustworthy” is a simple matter of identifying photographs that have all nine characteristics of widely trusted photographs.

See also Aren’t all photographs fiction?