It is naive of us to rely on photographs for factual information, especially a photograph on a platform like Instagram.
Everything we post to Instagram is altered reality, whether it’s something simple, a cup of coffee, or, as Amelia Liana is alleged to have done, something more extravagant, such as a photo-shopped backdrop. The concept is the same: photographers trade in ideas.
Several recent news articles suggest Liana heavily manipulates her travel photographs. People are asking:
- Is she a photographer/artist if she’s using stock photos?
- Is she deceiving people?
- Is she dishonest?
Photo manipulation has been around since the 1800s – long before digital technology and social media. Whether it was a double exposure, combined prints, or photomontage, these processes significantly changed the camera image, the context, and the meaning. The outcome, whatever the process, is still photographic.
Hannah Hoch, for instance, made photo-montages using found photographs and a cut-and-paste method. Her images made comments on social issues, particularly feminism. She is considered an artist.
Granted, Hoch’s work is seen as more meaningful than Liana’s, but the process is essentially the same. A lot of people are suggesting Liana is not an artist or even a photographer. Liana is still a photographer and whether her images include stock photos or not, the finished photograph is hers.
How we choose to present our imagery is up to us. Equally, how we as viewers choose to interpret other people’s imagery is also our responsibility.
Photography, for the most part, is not objective. Some might argue that there are exceptions, like forensic photography. But when we share our photographs, we’re inviting people to become part of the reality we’ve created. Is that not the same for Liana?
If I stop reading a book or drinking a coffee so I can take a picture of myself reading a book or drinking a coffee, does that make that picture disingenuous?
I’m pretending to read. I’ve created a reality based on an idea. Is that wrong? No. It’s my prerogative as a photographer. I can make any type of image I want. I don’t expect that everybody will buy into that idea. Photography is subjective.
Maybe Liana’s idea of a perfect travel photograph is the type of photograph she makes and shares. We don’t all have to buy into her ideas either. But 453,000 people do.
I’m not saying everybody should start photo-shopping exotic backdrops into their images and pretend to be somewhere they aren’t. But it’s Liana’s choice to represent herself the way she does. It’s up to her if she’d like to include stock images in her photography. It’s up to her if she wants to create her own altered reality.
It’s good to ask questions, especially about photography. But there’s a difference between debate and attack.
Instagram is a free platform. It offers us the freedom to express ourselves visually. It is Liana’s right to photograph, create and share whatever she likes. And it is more harmful to be hurtful towards somebody than it is for a person to create an altered reality.
What’s everybody’s thoughts on this subject? Do you agree? If not, why? Stick your thoughts in the comments below 🙂