Guest Post: Do Photos Lie? by Joshua Graham

Today, I’ve got Joshua Graham, author of Darkroom, visiting today to talk about photography, the media, and whether everything is as it appears.  Like photographs and media stories, humans often hide their secrets, but what we condemn in others may not necessarily be the same things we condemn in ourselves.  I’ve been fascinated with this concept ever since dabbling into photography and reading Believing Is Seeing by Errol Morris (my review).

About Darkroom:

After scattering her mother’s ashes in Vietnam, photojournalist Xandra Carrick comes home to New York to rebuild her life and career. When she experiences supernatural visions that reveal atrocities perpetrated by American soldiers during the Vietnam War, she finds herself entangled in a forty-year-old conspiracy that could bring the nation into political turmoil. Launching headlong into a quest to learn the truth from her father, Peter Carrick, a Pulitzer Prize Laureate who served as an embedded photographer during the war, Xandra confronts him about a dark secret he has kept–one that has devastated their family.

Her investigations lead her to her departed mother’s journal, which tell of love, spiritual awakening, and surviving the fall of Saigon.

Pursued across the continent, Xandra comes face-to-face with powerful forces that will stop at nothing to prevent her from revealing the truth. But not before government agencies arrest her for murder, domestic terrorism and an assassination attempt on the newly elected president of the United States.

Darkroom is a riveting tale of suspense that tears the covers off the human struggle for truth in a world imprisoned by lies.

Doesn’t this book sound awesome?! Without further ado, please give Joshua Graham a warm welcome and stay tuned for my review later in the month.

This photo and the photographer’s commentary inspired the epitaph in the opening pages of my novel, Darkroom.

“I won a Pulitzer Prize in 1969 for a photograph of one man shooting another. Two people died in that photograph: the recipient of the bullet and GENERAL NGUYEN NGOC LOAN. The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths.” –Eddie Adams, Photographer

Read more here at TIME Magazine.

Adams, who believed Brig. Gen. Loan’s contention that the man he shot had just murdered a friend of his, a South Vietnamese army colonel, as well as the colonel’s wife and six children. “How do you know you wouldn’t have pulled the trigger yourself?” Adams would later write in a commentary on the image.

Often the media puts things together in ways that have little to do with the truth. Impressions are fabricated for various agendas, and unfortunately most are created to boost the ratings with sensationalism. But what happens when the truth is distorted or even buried completely? And what happens if the contained truth is uncovered?

This is not just a global concern, but a personal one as well. Do we try to cover up our weaknesses and failures at the expense of authenticity or integrity? We cry foul when politicians and elected officials are caught doing this, but do we ever ask how we are doing the very same thing, in our own personal lives?

Constantly looking over your shoulder, trying to contain a secret that no one must ever know has got to be one of the worst prisons anyone can face, especially because it is self-imposed. There’s a reason why the scriptures say, “The truth shall set you free.” And this is what Darkroom is all about.

Take a moment to examine yourself and see if you’re sitting in a self-imposed cell. And consider the freedom you’ll enjoy because of the truth.

Thanks, Joshua, for sharing your thoughts on truth and fiction.

About the Author:

Joshua Graham is the award winning author of the #1 Amazon and Barnes & Noble legal thriller Beyond Justice. His latest book, Darkroom, won a First Prize award in the Forward National Literature award and was an award-winner in the USA Book News “Bests Books 2011” awards. Connect with Josh at his Website, Facebook, and on Twitter.


  1. Amazing post…that picture is so shocking! I remember a post that [email protected] wrote about how photos can be manipulated (not the photo itself) but just by the way it is presented without any background information and it amazes me how we can be led to believe certain ideas or perceptions!

    • Yes, exactly….I think photographers often take photos and initially do not realize that they can be manipulated by the media by presenting background that is not the whole truth, etc.

  2. I was a journalism major and I bowed out of getting my master’s degree by 3 units because the last class I had to take was an ethics class and it was all about doing what you shouldn’t do, in order to get the story. Seriously! I had a real problem with this train of thought and my journalism professor sat me down and said that my stand would prevent me from EVER getting a story that people would want to read. So I changed my major to Mass Communication, which wasn’t much better.

    That first photo’s caption just took my breath away.

    • I cannot tell you how obscene journalist ethics is…it really depends on the school and the teacher…there are some of the mind that you have to do anything to get the story and then there are those that are looking for the truth…facts…and reporting those. But are we really just interested in facts…not opinion or clarification/modification of the story? Is it a matter of the supply meeting the demands? or is the supply tailored to what someone thinks the public demands?

  3. Some really interesting things to ponder. I’m not always sure what to believe or accept as truths.

  4. Have you seen the Official Book Trailer for DARKROOM?

    • Impressive trailer! I love the premise of the book. I have been fascinated with the unintended things that end up on photos. Our lives told through a series of accidental images.

  5. Great post and the book sounds fantastic! I agree with what others have said as well. It’s hard to know what’s real today with the way photos can be changed to alter the reality.

  6. Oops, sorry but that link that short blog post is actually a repeat of this one, which you’ve already read, hopefully. 🙂

  7. Hi Everyone!

    Thanks for the thought-provoking comments and feedback. You know, photoshop manipulation of images is one thing, but as one person said here, even an unaltered photograph taken out of context can be misleading. So much of life is a matter of perception, it’s hard to know what the truth is. But does that mean we resign to a life of moral relativism?

    I should hope not.

    But what is truth? Is there anything absolute? There are some who say that NOTHING is absolute, to which I say, “Are you absolutely certain of that?”

    Anyway, I would love to hear more from you and invite you to connect with me on my social network links below.

    And by the way, DARKROOM is available for:
    Amazon/Kindle: http://bitly.com/w2Qx1w
    Barnes & Noble/Nook: http://bit.ly/vG22no

    You might be interested in a short blog post I recently did regarding some inspiration for this book: Here

    If you’d like free sample chapters, please come to my facebook page: http://on.fb.me/joshpage

    I’d love to hear from everyone, so please feel free to reach out to me on facebook, my blog, or twitter: @j0shuaGraham

  8. Wow, just seeing the photo gives you one idea, then hearing the story about it gives you another. Very interesting, and like the previous commenters, it’s so hard to know what’s true and what’s not in the media these days especially with Photoshop.

  9. Interesting ideas. I always felt, when all the heat was on Clinton for his behavior with Monica Lewinsky, that there had to be plenty of politicians and others who were being hypocritical on that issue, and who therefore shouldn’t be throwing stones! But it is so hard to ferret out the truth, and I agree with Kathy – now with photoshop and all, it is even harder. But then what Adams says seems true too – photos, especially out of context, can lie even without manipulation. Very thought-provoking post today Serena!

    • With all the politics I see down here in DC, I can tell you that there is a lot of that going around…people critiquing others for actions that are similar to their own. Hypocrisy abounds in this city…LOL I think in terms of photography, most photographers think of it as an art form, so they often frame photos…even without Photoshop.

  10. I’d never read the background on that photo before. It does change things somewhat. I am more skeptical these days with Photoshop, etc.

    • I have seen this photo before, but had never seen that caption…I think this is so true in the digital age…what’s truth and what’s fiction…?!


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