One of the things you do when you've got a new and promising theory, or way of looking at things, or definition, or whatever, is simply to run the old stuff through the new thing to see what comes out. If garbage comes out, then maybe your new thing is not so great. If you get the same, or better, results than you used to, well, great!
Let's think about the "Truth Claim of Photography" by way of my "photographs transport you to the scene" theory of looking at photos.
As, it seems, always, let us first take a step back. Consider yourself in the real world, not transported there mystically but just, you know, there in the ordinary way.
You are aware of stuff. You have, more often than not, a pretty good notion that you know what's going on. You do know a great deal about your environment, to be sure. Still, you may not be aware of the tiger in the bushes, although your dog certainly is (mine is pretty unaware of everything, but I assume yours is more On It.) You probably have a firm but somewhat inaccurate notion of what's going on in another person's head as you converse with them. You probably think you're reading them better than you actually are.
The world as rendered through smell and sound is a little unclear to us, because we're humans. We tend to discount things going on there, and focus on vision, sight, because that's what we're good at. We know there's a chair over there, a window behind us, there's our friend, and so on. We have situational awareness. But, as anyone who has ever been surprised knows, we're often overconfident. We can be surprised to find a piece of furniture in our way, and we can be surprised when our friend says "I'm not mad, where did you get that idea?" We tend to overstate to ourselves our awareness of the world around us, and only rarely do we understate it.
So let's think about photos now. Applying my new thing: when confronted with the photo, we are metaphorically transported to the scene, and we build, we imagine, a world to contain and surround what we see in the photograph. The world we build we imagine to be reality. We're speculatively filling in what we imagine to be the actual world that the picture was drawn from.
We do this, I maintain, whether the picture is real or not. Even if we know it's faked, or the result of painting, or AI, we still respond (to a degree) as if it were real, as if we were there. This reaction is biological, somatic, subconscious. Something like that. Something that operates to a degree outside our conscious control. Something below cultural and above chemical.
We know, of course, or think we know, certain facts that are visible in the photograph. There is a bicycle, there is a tree, there is a cat. We may in fact know these things are fake, if we know intellectually that someone painted the hyper-realistic cat. We respond nevertheless, somatically, with ideas about why the cat is there, how the bicycle came to be leaning against the tree, and so on.
This irresistible tendency to expand the mere visual facts of the frame — this tendency driven by the somatic response to the photo — conflicts with the limited truth actually present in the photo (or the complete lack of this kind of truth, in a photorealistic painting.) This is, precisely, where we get into trouble with truth in photography.
Anyone with a smidge of wit can delineate precisely where the boundaries of actual verifiable truth of a photograph lie, this is not the problem. The problem is that people who don't take care look at a photo and "just know" things that are not actually present, in exactly the same you "just know" that your friend is angry. We build and read an imaginary world, and make assumptions based not on the precise contents of the frame but on the imagined world which surrounds it, and which we in a sense inhabit.
We are, it should be clear, no better at "reading" this imagined world than we are at reading the real one. We can be wrong, we can be surprised. Also, we're surprisingly right surprisingly often — there is no a priori reason to suppose we'd ever be right about anything, here, but sometimes we manage it.
Just as we overreach in the real world, we overreach in this one. Adding to the overreach problem, we find that the boundary is vague between facts we can discern in the visible frame, and "facts" which are guesses and opinions.
The "Truth Claim" is valid, as far as it goes, but being the organisms we are, we are thoroughly unsuited to correctly bounding the limits of the claim, and thus we get in to trouble. We constantly, habitually, over-extend the claim.
Even, perhaps especially, if we style ourselves "experts."