The photograph as an object is real. It often represents the real thing, but not necessarily in a realistic way. An image is indexical of the recorded ‘thing’ whether it is obvious or not. Beyond the physicality of the image, it is merely a representation of what was there in front of the lens. Authenticity of this representation is a different question. In documentary photography and news imagery, it is expected that images depict reality as it happened and digitally manipulated images are frowned upon. Yet framing alone manipulates image so there will always be photographer’s choice in how the event was portrayed. For example, these two images are of the same scene photographed from different perspectives (full article here) . They both depict reality.
My practice does not directly consider these questions. My work is mostly negotiated and staged, this doesn’t make it any less real, yet it is representational. My recent portrait of Hugo taken in an ice cream café does not ask questions of reality, e.g. ‘Who is Hugo?’ The importance of this photograph instead lies in its concept. Hugo is a complete stranger who has agreed to be photographed by me. We read visual clues from the image, observe the scene and consider the aesthetic of it. The aesthetic of ‘looking real’ in this instance is important as we are more likely to engage with the photograph’s narrative. It makes it relatable.