Elisabeth Klann
Multimedia Review/ILS 604-Winter 96
Howard Besser

Pedro Meyer

Verdades y Ficciones

(Truths and Fictions)

Requirements: color capable Mac, 16 bit display, 5000K of RAM allotment (7000K if you want to operate in millions of colors instead of thousands), 640x480 (or larger) monitor. 4/95.

"What of the photograph made out of nothing? What about painting with light? Is it photography? Surely if we can paint with light we can paint with dreams, create the morning mist or the afternoon glow. Is it fake? Hardly. Whatever else may be false in this tenuous existence of ours, imagination is not. All that we value, that we strive to uphold all that gives us strength, has been made of dreams, and we must dream on. If pixels be the vehicle that realizes our dream, be it so."
Shahidul Alam

"The quality of my writing may have improved somewhat, my spelling is no longer an embarrassment due to spell check. I write more, but my thoughts aren't any clearer and I am not a better person because of this technical assistance."
Fred Baldwin
United States

Truths and Fictions is multimedia CD-ROM that addresses, in words and images, the concept of digital photography, its present role and future implications, and the pros and cons of working in such a medium. The central artist is Mexican photographer Pedro Meyer, and additional commentary is provided by John Green from the California Museum of Photography, and by a number of people all over the world who have corresponded with Meyer re: this subject.

There are some nice tools for manipulation of the program and the images it contains; however, this isn't a terribly interactive experience. Much of it involves listening and watching, and clicking buttons to move along or zoom in for a closer look (not being a big game player, this is more than fine with me). The most noteworthy element of my experience was not the way the program worked (this was fairly seamless and simple) but the manner in which it addressed and illustrated its subject.

I'll begin by briefly outlining the organization of the program elements and move on to concepts and questions posed by Meyer, Green and the letter authors regarding the digital image and its place in "reality".

Program Order:

The Digital Image

Meyer does not deny that the digital capabilities for changing images can be a dangerous one, especially if photographs are still regarded as authentic records of an experience. His own approach, however, is that of the artist, and John Green makes some excellent points in his narration about the slants and points of view a photographer brings to images even if they are not altered in anyway. To some degree, any photograph is not an exact representation; they have all been abstracted to some degree, whether by method of printing, composition, choice of subject matter or deliberate ambiguities. Meyer's "unaltered" photographs are every bit as confusing and stimulating as his enhanced images. They are never completely objective. Cropping, subject, quality of light--all of these can be used, though perhaps not as dramatically, as digital alterations to produce a final effect. Meyer's photographs are not meant to be pure representations. All the images challenge our perceptions of what makes up the "real" world of that moment.

Another observation by Meyer: images today are seen as they happen, images can become obsolete as they happen, and technology becomes history instantly. What is the difference between the immediate effect of an image and it's archival value as a record?Will the digital moment replace the decisive moment? If representation (or misrepresentation) of fact is not your concern, then perhaps there is no right or wrong, Meyer says, only questions.

The digital technology employed by the artist lets him make layered paintings from a series of photographs. He "takes pictures" of places we haven't been before (or maybe we have, but not quite awake). Meyer challenges our perception of what is "true" and what is "expected" by creating works of unexpected juxtapositions, even in the original images. His alterations are often so subtly done that it takes you a moment to place what is fantastical about the picture. Of course, part of the reason he uses this technology so effectively is that he is so good at crafting the original images to begin with.

Some of descriptions of the images that struck me:

And finally,

I am so inclined to look for the danger in so many new things; while I could never support censorship in any form (because once they take one thing away, can't they take everything?), that belief is constantly put to the test by the darker potential of so much that is new. Parts of the Internet, the real misogyny and hatred in some music, film and television, the ability to wipe out historical accuracy in a photograph...all of these things don't make me inclined to censor, but they do muddy up my conviction a bit. This collection of Pedro Meyer's work gave me the opportunity to see a new technology used by an artist capable of using it to make see a whole new version of the world, if only for a moment.