While photographs may not lie, liars may photograph.”
Lewis Hine, 1908. Girl Worker in a Carolina Cotton Mil.
After analysing the Cotton Mill girl image and reading the history and context behind it, we come to the answer that, even though this image was supposed to reveal the reality of child labour in order to work as a social change trigger, it also was one image amongst many others photographed by Hine, who was against child labour and was part of the fight against it.
Many others saw it, as it would happen with any social inequality, as normal event and even some parents would agree that child labour was helpful and needed. But Lewis Hine created these images and even with the intention so show the truth, they are constructed in a certain way. According to Grundberg, “what we see in the image is often mistaken for the real thing” (Grundberg, 1989).
Hippolyte Bayard, 1840. Self Portrait as a Drowned Man
This constructed image was done in the 19th century by Hippolyte Bayard, and here he stages his death by suicide (Hippolyte Bayard, 1840). He created a new darregotype process, but was convinced by François Arago to postpone his announcement, who also invented a rival process. Due to this, he was never recognised for his invention. This photograph was a protest, as he felt injustice.
Moreover, people used to take photographs to be used in visiting cards, as here by Andre-Adolphe-Eugene Disderi in 1862. Representing a persona they would like to be seen as, a role that is performed, the same way we have the current culture of social media perfect images. This “lie” is constructed all the time and I can see them every time I open social media applications. Would this be the first version of the “Selfie” or, at least, a variation of it? Nowadays the constructed personality that is created in platforms such as Facebook, Instagram etc, has the photographs as a very important to confirm its status. The visual element is still the strongest in asserting this role.
But when we are discussing photography as art, the construction of scenes or staged moments can help to create a story. The creative use of light, movement, distortion, collage could be used to create images and “the number of possibilities is not finite, but infinite.” (Szarkowski, 1976).
More and more practitioners of contemporary photography use the concept of “constructed image” in order to create a body of work. I think that, sometimes, the constructed and staged tell us more about the “reality” than “reality” itself.
My Mother Posing for Me, 1984
From the series “Pictures From Home”