Saturday, November 28, 2009

Photography and Misinformation

On the recent 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, French President Nicolas Sarkozy posted a picture on his facebook page which he claimed showed himself helping to take down the wall the night the authorities declared the East-West border open. A couple of days later, French papers published evidence that the picture was actually taken a week after the wall fell, rather than the night of. Even after a complete refutation of Sarkozy's claim, though, the President refused to admit that he had lied. Reading Morris' piece on the Iranian missile launch reminded me of this article (linked here) because both highlight the ease and the dangers of simply trusting, or expecting, photos to show the truth.

I think the fake is also an example of how photography has undermined what Benjamin called the aura resulting from a thing's unique existence. It seems like in lying about the real context of his photo, Sarkozy was trying to add to an normal picture an aura of uniqueness that would in turn reflect well upon him. As a result, while the age of reproduction may have resulted in the destruction of aura with things whose unique existence suddenly become a mass existence, perhaps another danger is that the ease of reproduction has allowed people to fake an aura of uniqueness, or add on a seemingly more impressive aura of uniqueness, to a merely commonplace reproduction. This second damage to the authenticity of aura is highlighted in the photos at the bottom of the article (linked again here) sent to two French newpapers in which Sarkozy appears in famous historical events, from the Yalta Conference to the JFK assassination.

1 comment:

  1. That's crazy. It really just shows how Facebook lets everyone present anything as the truth about their lives. It's also hilarious that someone would highlight the absurdness of his faking history by photoshopping him into those other photos.