Dai Fei:
Documentary & Straight photography in Reality

2021. 08. 21

Is photography the image of reality? By examining the first 100 years of photography, Dai Fei asked the audience, “How do humans use photography to explore reality?” Reality, documentary, and truthfulness are topics explored in Plato’s book The Republic. But such topics are discussed in relation to photography the most in the chapter “In Plato’s Cave” from Susan Sontag's book On Photography.

Plato's cave asked the question, what is reality? Is it the shadows on the cave wall? Or is the world you see outside the cave after breaking free from the shackles pinning you down? In modern times, the photos and movies people see are perceived as the truth, just like our images.

During the early years after the invention of photography, both Louis Daguerre and Henry Fox Talbot utilised photography to display creativity. The use of photography as a scientific research tool was lessening, whilst its use as a form of artistic expression and performance was becoming more popular. In other words, photography is like a system. On the outside, it looks like a tool that perceives reality, but inside, it contains a significant amount of diversity. The truth of photography is that it’s the real shadow in Plato’s cave and not the actual material world outside the cave, as many people believe it to be.