Book Review: Believing Is Seeing


Believing Is Seeing: Observations on the Mysteries of Photography

By Errol Morris

THE PENGUIN PRESS

We expect photography to reflect reality, to encapsulate undeniable facts. In this book, filmmaker Errol Morris dismantles that notion, showing that even the least ambiguous photos present a cropped version of truth. He interrogates famous images from the Civil War, the Depression, and Iraq with characteristic curiosity. Trying to deconstruct the notorious photo of an Abu Ghraib guard grinning over a corpse (an image also featured in his film, Standard Operating Procedure), Morris gets a crash course from an authority on facial expressions. While obsessing over a 150-year-old Crimean War photo that may have been staged, he consults shadow experts and forensic imagery specialists and even sets out to find the exact spot where it was taken. “Photographs reveal and they conceal,” Morris writes. In short, those proverbial 1,000 words may require a bit of fact-checking.

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In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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