Inventing the Real, Life as a Novel

J.G.Ballard wrote in 1995 that we all now live a novel, that fiction is everywhere and the job of the writer is to invent the real. Richard Powers also touched on modern realities being the end of fiction in his 2011 essay about Berlin. The real, it seems, has been a problem for people even before Nietzsche outed it as a “mobile army of metaphors”.

William Burroughs thought his cut-and-paste-technique had more validity than conventional methods of representation and I tend to agree with him because what we see when we walk down the street are fragments of the world, truncated by vehicles flashing past, faces glimpsed, glares from a store front window and a million other distractions.

In yesterday’s post I ruminated on the influences pushing me towards what at first seemed a nostalgic version for the photographic past. On reflection, it appears more an attempt to render more of what I’m seeing than conventional photographic practices allow. Yesterday I saw the Mall of Berlin sign, but the camera saw everything: it being a machine recorded what reflected light, but not what I was looking at. It’s the same with today’s picture, the camera saw more than I wanted it to. Later, using the iris tool, I converted the everything into what was important to me, the young woman’s eyes and the colour of her cardigan.

My question is then ‘Are the finished pictures renditions of my real or are they a manufactured reality, a fiction that I’m using to describe my real?’

I know it doesn’t really matter, no one has successfully described reality because it’s such an individual thing.

However, the wonders of technology via the digital darkroom is bringing the ability to visually describe one’s individual real just that little bit closer .

Exciting, isn’t it?


50mm, f6.3, 1/100sec, ISO 160. Lighting; 500watt Studio flash with 1.8mtr white umbrella

PS: notice the round corners


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