Above: Image, Gina Milicia, Chennai, India
“They say the camera never lies. It lies every day.” —Cesar Romero
My camera is a compulsive liar. It bends the truth every time it takes a photo. It does this because the truth makes my camera feel uncomfortable. My camera does not act alone; we work as a team. I give the directions. I too am a compulsive liar.
“You can’t handle the truth.”
The reason my camera and I conspire to tell lies is that the truth can be painful. I’ve experienced this painful truth first hand on many occasions. My driver’s license photo was taken by an honest photographer, my passport photo and all my high school photos speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
My photos are shot by a liar, liar pants on fire. I know how to bend the truth, embellish the facts, or tell white lies. I am a professional compulsive liar.
This wasn’t always the case. My first attempts at photography were pure, honest photos, the truth. This was before I learned how to bend the truth. The right lens, pose, and post-production techniques twist the truth, embellish the facts. Everybody wants to look good in photos.
The best portrait photographers know how to make their cameras lie. Some use subtle techniques like good lighting and posing; others rely on more sophisticated methods like Photoshop. They all bend the truth, flatter the subject or tell white lies.
I’ve made a living telling lies for nearly thirty years now. I don’t regret my choice to do this. Shooting commercially has afforded me the opportunity to shoot personal projects where lying is optional. It’s in these projects where I can photograph the truth as I see it that give my work meaning.
This week I traveled to India and photographed the people of Chennai. I used a handheld camera and available light; I didn’t pose my subjects. I wanted to capture honest portraits. I loved every minute. The Chennai project is the kind of work that fills my soul.
“A lie has speed, but truth has endurance.” —Edgar J. Mohn