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.