“A Great & Truthful Medium”

What is it to be original?

The nineteenth century anticipated the rise of photography & the notion of “a great and truthful medium” was established. Many believed that Mathew Bardy’s photograph of Abraham Lincoln depicted Lincoln’s ‘true’ form without the social sigma. This was the first time citizens could truly interpret Lincoln’s appearance, creating a sense of reality & personal connection. But was this actually Abraham’s true form?
The photograph is taken from a straight angle in which Abraham appears large & strong, his expression creates a serious and compelling depiction; an excellent candidate for leader in most peoples eyes.


But what if this photo was taken at a high angle? Making Abraham look small and weak. What if he was smiling instead of an expressionless face?
Would he still be an ideal President of the United States in the peoples eyes?

I do not view photographs as ‘true mediums’. Even in a world without ‘Adobe Photoshop’ and image distortion the photographer has the power to crop what he doesn’t want the audience to see. For example: If I was taking a photo of an apple with a bite taken out of it, I could choose to take a photo of that apple from behind making it appear like it is a full and complete apple.

What interested me most in this weeks reading was the section regarding Lady Flinter. Lady Flinter took it upon herself to ‘toy’ with widely available nineteenth century design mechanisms. Flinter took this process of printing of photographs and edited the Prince of Wales into a photograph with her. She placed this photo into her family photo album as if it was a legitimate photograph. This can be seen as the start of an entire area of untruth imagery in order to gain social status.

What Lady Flinter did as I see it is the start of an entire era of photo manipulation in order to achieve social status. Similar things can be seen in today’s society where software like ‘Adobe Photoshop’ is widely available and people utilise this software to create a perfect image of themselves online for social status. For example this is something that the Kardashians are renowned for. The existence of Photoshop has toyed with our perceptions of whats real and whats not.

So what is it to be original? Is it the original photograph? Is it the final edit version? Or is it neither? As the angle, lighting and frame can all contribute to a different depiction of the subject.
I personally think its the original photograph but the answer is entirely up to your interpretation.


Author: tjphoto

UON Design Student & Photographer Newcastle, AU

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