on (not) capturing reality

On my birthday weekend, Terry and I visited the San Jose Museum of Art to see the Annie Leibovitz exhibit. One of the other exhibits, however, caught my attention. It was photographs of the American West by Doug Hall. It was 18_rushmooredominated by a big-screen video of the Golden Gate Bridge and the ship traffic going beneath it, and he had some amazing portraits, but what really caught my attention were two images: one of crowds of people at Glacier Point in Yosemite and the other of crowds of people at Mt. Rushmore. I have never been to Mt. Rushmore, but Terry and I have been to Yosemite several times, and on our most recent visit we took the tour to Glacier Point. My photos there removed the crowds to the degree possible. Cropping in Photoshop helped complete the task. I spend a lot less time and energy on photography now than I once did, but that has always been my approach: capture the beauty, remove the crowds.

It struck me, looking at Hall’s photos, that in my photography I have violated the very principles of capturing reality I have criticized nonfiction writers for violating. Yet had I captured the scene as I actually experienced it, the photo would be less pleasing and less aesthetically enjoyable.

But if that is acceptable in photography does it become acceptable in nonfiction writing?

This is making my head hurt.

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