Our belief that photographs are factual representations of reality is a myth. Using a camera to document people and things, as noble as that goal is, doesn’t necessarily result in immutable truths. So, do photographs lie? Yes, especially when they don’t conform to conventional notions of what a photograph should look like, which is to say, an authentic reproduction of something interesting, if not important.
But photographs don’t always deliver reliable information, especially when they’re eccentric or esoteric. Moreover, some of the best photographs employ obfuscation, juxtapositioning, pairing, serializing, framing, subtlety, and aridity—qualities that might seem contrary to standard image-making practices. Such qualities can skew our concepts of photography and make us question why a subject is worthy of our attention in the first place.
In that respect it seems fair to say that some lies are better than others and more often than not arise when photographers manipulate the raw material of the world in ways we’re not accustomed to. Individually or in series, regardless of its subject or intent, photographs reveal hidden worlds imbued with emotions, symbols, and mysteries which transcend reality.