Friday, June 15, 2018


Having recently made some photographs that feature quotations, I was struck by the resemblance of a quoted remark to a photograph.

If I talk to you for a while, or read something you wrote, I might pull one of two lines of material from that. A sentence, a phrase, a short paragraph. By selecting what of that which you chose to say, I act in a role equivalent to that of the photographer. The photographer and I each select a single limited snippet of a larger whole, and display it.

This could be my best effort to represent the whole. It could be completely slanted, up to and including being the precise opposite of your actual intention in your words.

I am, in effect, "cropping" your words. This inevitably will emphasize certain aspects, de-emphasize others, and thus shape perceived meaning. In my previous post, I showed you some photographs and some quotations. The quotations, while verbatim and literally true in that sense, represent a conscious effort on my part to cast the photographed person, or people, in a revolutionary mold. I tried my best to balance the actual intended meaning of the interview as a whole with my desired narrative, and I am convinced that I dealt fairly with my subjects. I did warn them, every one, that the intent was to select quotes and to shape meaning.

And so I did that. I shaped the meaning of their words.

And then I superimposed those words, with their shaped meaning, on another object (the photo) intended to increase the perception of veracity.

I have made things which appear very true: This actual person, who you can see, spoke these very words.

And yet, the meaning was shaped. I bent the words spoken to suit my artistic goal. Not, I hope, too far. Not, I hope, beyond what the subject might reasonably have meant.

Indeed, I hope that by shaping their words, I can in some small way influence my interview subjects to adopt the slightly radicalized, the slightly more pointed, position that I imposed upon their picture. I will be giving a copy of the book to each of them.


  1. On the other hand, can there be such a thing like "objectivity"? If there wouldn't be any "cropping" or "narrowing down", you would quickly have to deal with an incomprehensible mess of things and facts. "Cropping" and "narrowing down" is what makes for an interesting and comprehensible story.

    Best, Thomas

  2. Are you saying the handwriting you included in your photos was not written by the subjects?

    If so, then I think you've done a lot more than just crop their words.

    This is a visual project. As such, I find the style of the handwriting says as much about the subjects as the words that were written.

    If, in fact, the handwriting is yours and not theirs ... wow.

    For me, at least, this will change everything about this project and how I react to it.

    And I don't mean in a good way, either.

    1. That is my handwriting. I offered to let the subjects write it themselves but nobody took me up on it. The logistics were too complex, which I dare say you can imagine.

      I am sorry to hear this negatively affects your reaction!