A.D. Coleman
[Critic and writer, b. 1943, New York, lives in New York.]

 The past is always with us, in the form of our photographs, which we feel as we might a rosary, wearing them smooth with the fingering of our eyes. 
 What a photograph shows us is how a particular thing could be seen, or could be made to look—at a specific moment, in a specific context, by a specific photographer employing specific tools. 
 The simple fact is this: There are no neutral photographs. 
 Photographs are of course about their makers, and are to be read for what they disclose in that regard no less than for what they reveal of the world as their makers comprehend, invent, and describe it. 
 ... the battle for the acceptance of photography as Art was not only counter-productive but counter-revolutionary. The most important photography is most emphatically not Art. 
 We’ve spent now about 150 years trying to convince ourselves that photographs are reliable evidence, some unimpeachable slice of the real world. That was a myth from the very beginning. 
 Any photographer worth his/her salt—that is, any photographer of professional caliber, in control of the craft, regardless of imagistic bent—can make virtually anything “look good.” Which means, of course, that she or he can make virtually anything “look bad”—or look just about any way at all. After all, that is the real work of photography: making things look, deciding how a thing is to appear in the image. 
 We must come to understand the extent to which lenses shape, filter, and otherwise alter the data which passes through them the extreme degree to which the lens itself informs our information. This influence, though radical in many cases, often manifests itself subtly. Yet even the most blatant distortions tend to be taken for granted as a result of the enduring cultural confidence in the essential trustworthiness and impartiality of what is in fact a technology resonant with cultural bias and highly susceptible to manipulation. 
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