More on FAQ #229

229. And the role of “accuracy” in judging photographs has changed compared to the 20th century?

Yes, and not just because undetectable manipulations have eliminated any reliable connection between “appearance” and “trustworthiness.”

The role of photographs themselves has changed

In the 19th and part of the 20th centuries, a single-exposure photograph was often the “most accurate” way of showing what a three-dimensional object or scene “looked like.”

Because there was no technology that was more faithful to the subject than photography, photographs were routinely regarded as “objective” and as “facts”— so much so that “A photograph never lies” was accepted as a common truism.

Not anymore!

That uniquely exalted status isn’t true for photographs anymore, thanks to newer imaging technologies that are superior to single-exposure photographs at depicting the precise appearance of things.

It’s also due in no small part to the “democratization” of photography, through which billions of people take photos and realize how many different, equally valid ways there are of non-deceptively depicting the same subject.

A new approach

TCQ is built on the premise that in the 21st century, photographs are increasingly valued as subjective records of “what one person saw, in one small corner of the world, at one unrepeatable moment in time” — not as objective “facts.”

In other words, thanks to the boom in photography, the world is learning to value photographs as individual interpretations — most of them as valid as each other and as unique as a fingerprint — and not as singular “facts” for which there are no alternative viewpoints.

Public expectations of what photographs should and should not “do” have changed accordingly.