The camera never lies


They do say, don’t they (whoever they refers to), that the camera never lies.

I have two observations on that.

Firstly, whoever asserted that had no knowledge of digital cameras or familiarity with… I don’t know… Photoshop, PaintShop Pro, GIMP or any of the plethora of image manipulation software, free and paid-for, that make up the photofinishing market these days.

My second observation is that, even were it impossible for a displayed image to show anything other than what was directly accessible to the lens at the time of capture, it has always been open to the photographer to arrange the scene in a way that will convey the impression that he or she wants to convey. In other words, the inability of the camera to lie – were such a concept true – does not preclude and has never precluded the ability of the composer of the image to deceive, to create a reality other than that which is immediately apparent.

Take this image as an example. We see an elderly gentleman holding his dog. The dog is on its back, supine; its eyes closed and its mouth in a relaxed position. What are we to infer from this scene? It is a still image, so we aren’t given the opportunity to observe whether the animal is moving, twitching or even breathing. Is it possible that he is dead? We certainly don’t have enough evidence to exclude that. The man’s face is giving nothing away. We can probably assume, from the expression, or lack of, on the man’s face, that the dog is still alive. Were he dead, we would expect the man to show signs of distress. Unless, of course, the poor pooch had gone to doggy heaven some time prior to the photograph being taken, in which case his owner (can we safely assume the man to be the dog’s owner?) would have cried himself out and would now be merely sad, resigned to the loss of his pet.

Do we believe, then, that the dog is asleep? Let’s look at the evidence with that as our hypothesis. The dog’s position is as consistent with sleep as it is with death. If we suspect, therefore, that the man’s expression leads us away from the assumption of death, then sleep becomes a very real possibility. I’m certainly heading rapidly towards sleep whilst writing this drivel.

Before I go, though, I want to offer an alternative – and we can call it your homework for the week. Consider the attitude of the two characters. Is it within the realm of reason to speculate that the man may have hypnotised the dog?

Or has the dog, perhaps, hypnotised the man?


This was written in response to Kreative Kue 342 published on this site.


16 thoughts on “The camera never lies

    1. I remember this photograph, Jadi, taken back in January of 2009. As is so often the case, the photograph speaks truthfully; it’s the writing that deceives. Ulysse (or Podge as he became known later, as his girth increased in lock-step with his age) was, indeed, fast asleep.

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