A Recovering Realist

Filmmaker Errol Morris is the author of 'Believing is Seeing'. His book was reviewed by Kathryn Schulz in the NYTimes recently and this led me to an interview on YouTube-‘Recovering Reality’ from the Columbia Journalism Review. www.cjr.org.

 The book, 'Believing is Seeing', focuses on truth and photography and it is apt that the best unintended review of the book is Morris talking about history, journalism and photography in the YouTube interview above.  He is very interested in the question of what we see and don’t see in a photograph.

 Errol Morris directed the documentaries, A Thin Blue Line and Fog of War. 

 When I draw a person using powdered charcoal embedded in clay on the surface of a paper, no one is fooled into believing that they are seeing reality. Isn’t the whole point of the exercise to offer an interpretation? If we ignore for the time being a photographic approach to a drawing and just get to the point of an actual photograph—we discover some interesting differences between my drawing and the photograph.

A photograph is a thing—an object or piece of the ‘real’ and an image as well. It serves up a delicious double serving of visual sensation and recognition.  The drawing demands an effort of inquiry and knowledge that excludes the simple and straightforward. 

But what about truth? The photograph is by its very nature further from truth than drawing because the photograph appears true. A drawing is always an interpretation of its subject, but a photograph can be an actual subject or a constructed interpretation of the subject—we can never be sure.

Here are a couple of people I drew attempting to stand in a space I constructed for them on the paper.