Black and White
Certain photographic styles are more believable than others. “There’s this crazy thinking that style guarantees truth,” states Errol Morris. “You go out with a hand-held camera, use available light, and somehow the truth emerges.” Film grain and blur equals immediacy equals veracity. You never see crisp, high resolution color photos of Big Foot or the Loch Ness Monster.
In a blood-drenched emergency room—and in a black-and-white photograph—five Black hospital staffers work to save an injured Ku Klux Klan member. In the wake of 2020’s Black Lives Matter movement, the photograph received wide circulation.
Photographer Sean Izzard loaded his camera with black-and-while film, shot available light, stayed out of the blood, and waited for the moment of action. He wanted the action to look real. That’s because it wasn’t. The photograph was staged for advertising. It ran as a full spread in Australia’s Large Magazine, a small magazine, itself now expired. Jay Furby, art director for the shoot, said of the theme: “…an optimistic comment on how we can rise as one human race and come together despite divisive histories, horrific abuses or evil ideology, economic hardship or physical impairment [,] i.e. if we are bigger in our thoughts and aren’t constricted by hatred or prejudice we can achieve huge things.” Photographer Izzard on the technique: People were cast in a role and instructed to create energy by “rock[ing] from one spot to another. This, combined with a slightly slower shutter speed, gave the image a real editorial or documentary type feel, which made it much more believable. So much so that it was ‘found’ with the advent of the internet and has surfaced many times…” A true fake can feel more real than the real.