Exercise: “Seeing is Believing”

The Brief

Read the WeAreOCA blog post ‘Seeing is Believing’. Read all the replies to it then write your own comment, both on the blog page and in your own blog. Make sure you visit all the links on the blog post. Base your opinions on solid arguments and, if you can, refer to other contributors to the blog.

(Open College of the Arts, 2014: 78)

I’m the 77th respondent to this exercise, some 8.5 years later and it is quite difficult to find something fresh to say after all these years. I’ve read through the comments and clicked on the links (dare I say – thankfully not all of them work!) and I’ll watch the Slavoj Žižek video later – I did have a quick look at the first few minutes, but didn’t want to get distracted from all the comments waiting for me.

Although I tend to agree with Obama’s decision not to publish the photo because of  fear of  retaliation or propaganda, not to mention the risk of creating a cult-hero status among Al Quada and other radical groups similar to what was created by Che Guevara’s death (commodification – just take a walk in Havana, Cuba to see how marketable Guevara has become), one does have to wonder if that was the real reason for suppressing the image(s) or ordering the destruction of them. The CNN video on this page – https://www.cnn.com/2014/02/11/politics/e-mail-photos-destroyed-osama-bin-laden/index.html – offers some interesting food for thought, reporting that it may have been a violation of the law to have destroyed those images. Compare the public’s need to see the evidence of Bin Laden’s death to the photographic evidence provided of Elvis’s death.  Forty-two years after Elvis’s death and there are still people claiming that he is alive (https://www.nme.com/blogs/nme-blogs/weirdest-elvis-presley-sightings-conspiracy-2125270-2125270). This ties in with Stan’s notion that “truth lies in beholding, not portraying”. The viewer will believe what he/she wants to believe whether he/she sees it or not – each person’s “crap detector” is different.

Since Jose first posted this article, the media rhetoric has gone ballistic. Fake news abounds on the internet and in social media. How do we discern who to trust? Do we trust the well known news corporations like BBC, NBC, CNN, CBC, Fox? Are the narratives they broadcast not governed by their owners’ corporate agendas and infused by their politics? (https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/04/18/jeff-bezos-amazon-washington-post-217994). I won’t even go down the route of politicians’ agendas 🙂 !

Peter’s statement/question that “truth may be equally or better represented in fiction than fact; does it matter if the image records an incident or is constructed to represent one – even one that hasn’t happened but tells the story?” is something that I’ve been struggling with in this section of the course work. In reading Joan Fontcuberta’s essay in Truth & Fictions (Pedro Meyer) he references Picasso’s painting of Guernica. Picasso was not an eyewitness to the bombing and he questions how Picasso came by his information about the event. Picasso’s painting has today become a symbol of modern warfare. Is this Cubist painting any less of a documentary value than a photograph of the event? I don’t believe so. Fontcuberta poses a couple of questions that I think are key to understanding this dichotomy: “what matters in a document – the intention that originated it or the effect it elicits? What is important – its aesthetic status as evidence or the social function that is assigned to it? (Meyer, 1995:8).

In this media-frenzied society we find ourselves today with a 24/7 news culture it really is a question of each (wo)man for him/herself to use our discernment and question the evidence around us if we don’t want to be manipulated by images.



Lesser, C. (2017) What Makes Guernica Picasso’s Most Influential Painting – Artsy. At: https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-guernica-picassos-influential-painting (Accessed  27/11/2019).

Meyer, P. (1995) Truths & Fictions | a journey from documentary to digital photography. New York: Aperture Foundation.

Mylrea, H. (2019) The weirdest Elvis Presley sightings and conspiracy theories. At: https://www.nme.com/blogs/nme-blogs/weirdest-elvis-presley-sightings-conspiracy-2125270-2125270 (Accessed  27/11/2019).

Navarro, J. (2011) Seeing is Believing | The Open College of the Arts. At: https://www.oca.ac.uk/weareoca/photography/seeing-is-believing/ (Accessed  26/11/2019).

Open College of the Arts (2014) Documentary – Fact & Fiction | Photography 2 Course Manual. (PH5DFF120419) Barnsley: Open College of the Arts.

Schafer, J. (2018) What Does Jeff Bezos Want? – POLITICO Magazine. At: https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/04/18/jeff-bezos-amazon-washington-post-217994 (Accessed  27/11/2019).

2 thoughts on “Exercise: “Seeing is Believing”

  1. Pingback: Learning Outcomes | Lynda Kuit Photography: Documentary – Fact & Fiction

  2. Pingback: Learning Outcomes | Lynda Kuit Photography: Documentary – Fact & Fiction

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