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Desert Realty

People expect photography to be real, to be true to life, an unvarnished documentary, so to speak. We trust photographs, and we assume that our trust is well placed. Photography is the only art form that carries such a burden of responsibility; nobody asks sculpture, or painting, or even film to report objectively on the outward appearance of things.

Yet "art" photography is, and always has been, the most dissembling of all the arts, because it uses this very misplaced trust to manipulate the viewer. The whole objective of art photography is to make sure that what ends up on the print is NOT an unvarnished representation of the world as it is. Snapshots tell the truth; art photography lies. Ever since its inception, "serious" photography has used every possible means to distort reality to serve the photographer's vision - elaborate fakery in setting up pictures, fancy lighting, filters, multiple exposures, darkroom legerdemain - the list is endless.

But for many viewers, their passive acceptance of all this trickery comes to a screeching halt with the advent of computers. Where once it was all right for Ansel Adams to filter, process, burn, dodge, bleach, tone, mask, crop and retouch his images into being, for the next generation of photographers to use the next generation of tools is for some reason deemed "unfair" or "dishonest."

I want to challenge that opinion, and the sanctity of supposedly documentary art photography in general. I want people to appreciate these images for what they are, not for whatever the buildings might have looked like in real life. I'm deliberately straddling the line betwen reportage and fantasy . These images are obviously photographs, which means we should be able to believe them. Yet something about them is not entirely real. Some people find that disturbing. I find it intriguing.

I'm playing cat and mouse with our sense of trust. I make no bones about the fact that these pictures are not true to life, yet still somehow they seem, well, legitimate. So I'm lying to your face but I still want you to you believe me. And I'm betting that you will. It's sort of like telling children about Santa Claus - sometimes we have to lie about the small stuff in order to convey a far greater truth.