In this exploration of contemporary photography, David Levi Strauss questions the concept that “seeing is believing”
Identifying a recent shift in the dominance of photography, David Levi Strauss looks at the power of the medium in the age of Photoshop, smart phones, and the internet, asking important questions about how we look and what we trust.
In the first ekphrasis title on photography, Strauss challenges the aura of believability and highlights the potential dangers around this status. He examines how images produced on cameras gradually gained an inordinate power to influence public opinion, prompt action, comfort and assuage, and direct or even create desire. How and why do we believe technical images the way we do?
Offering a poignant argument in the era of “fake news,” Strauss draws attention to new changes in the technology of seeing. Some uses of "technical images" are causing the connection between images and belief (between seeing and believing) to fray and pull apart. How is this shifting our relationship to images? Will this crisis in what we can believe come to threaten our very purchase on the real? This book is an inquiry into the history and future of our belief in images.
Strauss's unorthodox understanding of photographs has informed incisive essays on topics from Joseph Beuys's precognition of 9/11 to torture scenes at Abu Ghraib to the feminist-Marxist Kurdish revolution in Rojava. In Photography and Belief he sets out to develop a coherent philosophy of why we believe in photographs . . . After a literacy of images, Strauss wants a literature of images. Before we can get there, though, we have to go back to the origins of our belief.
– Will Fenstermaker, The Nation
“Strauss imagines a way forward if we can embrace an epistemology not of suspicion, but of uncertainty. Seeing, as the cliché goes, is believing. But believing is also a way of seeing.”
– Addis Goldman and Alex Langstaff, Artforum
"David Levi Strauss is an art critic of exceptional quality and depth. I can think of none in this field I would rank ahead of him in terms of his knowledge, his seriousness, his adventure, and the power of his writing."
– Arthur Danto
"In the night by his intelligence and compassion, David Levi Strauss talks about what has been forgotten, what is being systematically erased, and what we need to remember for tomorrow."
– John Berger, author of “Ways of Seeing”
"[David Levi Strauss] is photography's troubled conscience."