The Lives of Documents – Photography as Project — Edward Pérez-González

[Fall 2023]

Capturing the Image, Grasping What’s Human
Edward Pérez-González


The idea that documentary photography is a neutral means of capturing reality has been utterly debunked. Photographs are not, and never were, simple recordings of reality, which is always complex and subjective. They are imbued with the preconceived ideas – values, feelings, social construction – of the person behind the lens. How the image is framed, focused, processed, and presented is influenced by the photographer’s prejudices and interests. Starting from the idea that the borders between disciplines are becoming increasingly fuzzy, one could propose that the nature of documentary photography consists mainly of weaving reality together and experimenting.

Is reality beyond our grasp? Jorge Luis Borges1 said it was, challenging the transparency of language, and Henri Bergson concurred when he talked about the perception of reality:

I look and I think I see, I listen and I think I hear, I examine myself and think I am reading the very depths of my heart. But what I see and hear of the outer world is purely and simply a selection made by my senses to serve as a light to my conduct; what I know of myself is what comes to the surface, what participates in my actions. My senses and my consciousness, therefore, give me no more than a practical simplification of reality. In the version they furnish me of myself and of things, the differences that are useless to man are obliterated, the resemblances that are useful to him are emphasised; ways are traced out for me in advance, along which my activity is to travel.2

[ Complete issue, in print and digital version, available here: Ciel variable 124 – SEEING THROUGH IMAGES ]
[ Complete article, in digital version, available here: The Lives of Documents – Photography as Project — Edward Pérez-González ]