Do photographers tell the truth?
The answer to this question will be “Yes” and “No”. I agree with Howard Becker when he says that “… pictures represent a small and highly selected sample of the real world” (p.14). If you ask journalists the same question “Do journalists tell the truth?” The answer will be exactly the same. Photography can’t tell the whole truth like journalism. Philosophically, there is the truth is out there. But nobody never ever find it. In seeking for the truth, journalists as well as photographers find and tell some truth. In other words, we can not find absolute truth, but we can find relative truth.
A way to tell some truth is to shape or frame events, actions and subjects. The dangerous thing on the way for seeking the truth is that everyone has his/her own truth to tell. In many cases, one person’s truth can be opposite to another’s. It makes journalist’s work more difficult at the same time interesting. From many people’s truth a journalist selects some of them to represent keeping a balance in reporting.
I think, a way photographer tells the truth is more believable because people trust more when they see. Even though a photographer allows people see the world from his/her angle and perspective, a photo is more valid for readers than a verbal text. That is why print media attach photos to the most important verbal text to make assertions. As Becker explains images have broad meaning and answer to specific questions.
A vivid example how to tell truth in certain way is photos of James Nastwey in Time magazine. He took very strong pictures which were used as an ad about the story on the cover page and as assertion of events described in the written text.
Concerning problems related to access, I have one more thing to add. A photographer takes a heavy suitcase with camera and lenses all the time. It means he/she will spend double time for security check on borders or official houses. In Missouri, there is a special rule for cameras in court room. For the purpose not to interrupt court’s proceeding, it is allowed to be only one TV camera or one still camera in a court room. Meantime, as many as print journalists can attend court process without getting any permission.