I used to think that photographs were true, but now I think that none of the are true and are all highly subjective. The way each of us sees something and our own background helps to decipher what is seen in a photograph, not to mention the context the photographer created to go with it.
I have been on a number of photography courses to see this in action. So many times at the end of the day when we would share images and we had all photographed the same thing but took entirely different images. Sometimes it is the way we see things, or position them, or simply just our camera or post-production software.
Liz Wells states in her book that what we do with the image is what is in fact photography, and I agree with this. Just take the image Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange. There are less circulated shots of that same short period of time that do not reflect what that one image did. So what Lange did was to choose the most emotive image as it served her purpose for the FSA’s project.
I don’t think that digital photography has changed the ‘truth’ in images very much as older images could be manipulated but also the person behind the camera also created a context that altered the truth. Bresson’s famous Gar d Lyon is a good example. With the lucky press of a finger (and he says he wasn’t even looking through the view finder when he took that) he immortalizes what looks like a rather playful man jumping over a puddle. But had it been a minute earlier or later, the image would have been entirely different and thus our perception would have been altered.