Seeing is believing…right?Written by David White
Not here, and not anywhere really.
I was recently sent a book to review, “Believing Is Seeing (observations on the mysteries of photography)” by Errol Morris. Now, I’m no book reviewer, and I’m also not a great fan of essays on photography. So, not a good start you may think. However, I have to say, this book is right up duckrabbit’s street. (Gestalt Avenue, Bristol), and it should be right up yours too. There is even a picture of a duckrabbit in there, and for a damn good reason.
Morris describes the book as a “collection of mystery stories”… mystery stories about photography. Really, it’s a mystery story about photographers, motives, audience and context. It questions hard the relationship between images and reality. It is an interesting read, occasionally fascinating even. Morris is an obsessive, and that can get rather tiring, but overall the book is one to hunt down. I read it in one sitting, and I have the attention span of a gnat. Morris goes off on various adventures to try and ascertain the ‘truth’ behind many famous images.. Fenton’s ‘Valley of the shadow of death’, the infamous Abu Ghraib images, Rothstein’s pictures taken for the FSA, Ben Curtis’ image of a Mickey Mouse toy in the ruins of Tyre, Lebanon, and many more.
As you have maybe guessed, he finds no truth. He finds a few very interesting facts, and gives us greater context to many of the images discussed. Essentially, using the duckrabbit illustration as an example, if we believe we see a rabbit, we see a rabbit. If we believe we see a duck, we see a duck. “Our beliefs can completely defeat sensory evidence” says Morris.
In the end, the book throws up more questions than answers, which is one of the reasons I liked it so. If you see a copy, read it. Maybe even buy it. Hopefully it’ll be out in paperback soon so that all you impoverished photojournalists, press photographers and documentary photographers can afford it, because it’s a must read for you. If you want, pop in and borrow my copy.
I didn’t have to buy the book, but the above is an honest review. Isn’t it?