Warsaw 1947 © Jindrich Marco
The photograph came into its own during the 20th Century as a means of controlling information, subtly using facts as a means to manipulate truth. Photography plays on our perception of reality, inviting each viewer to construct our own believable story in response to the events shown in the frame.
Few images capture the contradictory aspects of photography so succinctly as this image which reveals the complicity of the camera in the construction of fantasy. It is a picture within a picture representing meaning within meaning. In search of a category, do we classify this image as documentary, portraiture, high-street commercial or studio fabrication? Is it a record of an event or a construction of the imagination? Is it reality or is it fiction?
And for whom is the picture made? There is a transparent irony in the inner frame as the smiling soldiers pose with their guns in their bucolic fantasy, and maybe they are posing in a private joke (complete with the photographer’s jacket hanging on a “branch”). Or maybe they are constructing evidence for family and friends elsewhere, anticipating the question, “What did you do in the war, Daddy?” Is it an expression of pride, or a response to horror?
The truth includes all these things, and fifty years after the event it is up to us to choose what we want to see. There is no deception more simple or more powerful than the selection of a frame and the careful choice of facts to construct a record. This is the camera in flagrante, caught in the act of creating reality.
First published World Press Photo Newsletter 1997