Thursday, January 5, 2012

Errol Morris on the Questions of Photography

You can never see the absence
of something in a photograph.
~ Errol Morris

Award-winning documentary filmmaker and writer Errol Morris, author of a new book of essays, Believing Is Seeing:Observations on the Mysteries of Photography* (Penguin Press HC, 2011), recently spoke with The Guardian about what we see, or cannot see, in a photograph; what makes a photograph iconic, gives it power; and why photographs "do not obviate the need for further investigation." Curiosity, even a tiny bit, he makes clear, is essential to begin to understand what it is we are looking at and to link what we are seeing to our physical world. When we look, Morris explains, we need to focus on the little details in an image before we can appreciate the larger questions — about the nature of posing, about truth, for example — that a photograph raises.

In the brief eight-minute video immediately below, Morris speaks to issues of truth, propaganda, and art in photography, illustrating his points with images, such as the notorious photographs of Abu Ghraib, that are known to us all. (To play, click the right arrow symbol just above the word "Link".)

Also Of Interest

* An excerpt is available here. Many of the essays in Morris's book have appeared in Morris's Opinionator column for The New York Times. He's written some wonderful essays for that column. One of his most interesting is "The Umbrella Man", published November 21, 2011.

Errol Morris Website (You'll find here an accounting of Morris's films, commercials, and television work; his lectures, editorials, opinion pieces, and reviews for The New York Times, Salon, New York Magazine, and other publications; interviews; online store; and an archive comprising various resources.)

Errol Morris, "Photo-Op: Believing Is Seeing", Opinion, The New York Times, July 13, 2008

"Errol Morris Looks for Truth Outside Photographs", All Things Considered, NPR, September 17, 2011

Interview with Scott Tobias at A.V. Club, July 14, 2011

Video, "Recovering Reality: A Conversation with Errol Morris", Columbia Journalism Review, 2008


S. Etole said...

Found this fascinating!

Glynn said...

It's a wonderful video. Or I should say he says wonderful, and wonderfully profound, things.

Louise Gallagher said...

This is awesome!

So.. Is that like not being able to see what isn't there -referring to his quote...

the sad red earth said...

A little late catching up with this - but "The Umbrella Man" story is revelatory about the nature of evidence and the reading of signs and how the underlying truth - an actual truth - can remain completely hidden beneath the signs and evidence.