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Monday, 22 November 2010

Rimaldas Viksraitis and Other True Stories

In this video of Rimaldas Viksraitis pictures, the translator mentions they are special because they tell a true story, a story of rural excess, of drinking and debauchery.

What is a true story is the big question. Well, keeping it simple because there is not too much happening up top today, a true story is a true story as opposed to a made-up story.

During the talk somebody asks how much the pictures are staged, how much they are straight documentary? Which  begs the question of whether the villagers' performances can't be straight documentary. It's the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle again, where the camera changes everything - just as a writer's questions or presence changes everything, or a film camera or microphone changes everything. People are affected by whoever or whatever is around. We are not invisible and nor are our cameras.

The question needs to be flipped around and we should ask when people claim something to be a performance or staged, in what way is it a performance, in what way is it staged, having as our starting point a taking it for granted that there is always a staging or interference of some kind in all photographs (just as there is in all social interactions). So if a photograph is staged, why is it staged and what is so special about this staging that the photographer has gone to all this trouble of directing his/her subject rather than letting them perform in the way that Viksraitis or Billingham or Mikhailov or Kranzler do.

That way we take truth for granted and we have a foundation on which we rely on, even when the foundation is entirely unreliable and made of sand. I think this is at least part of the agenda of Susie Linfield's excellent (and flawed) new book, The Cruel Radiance, to reclaim truth in the photograph and so return to a love of looking, seeing and showing rather than the hatred so prevalent among Anglophone critics and writers.

A little bit of Paul Kranzler to end this post. These are from Land of Milk and Honey - and note that seeing these pictures on the web is no substitute for buying the book or seeing the prints in real life.

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