Show for Oct. 23, 2011: Filmmaker Errol Morris on Photography and Truth
Errol Morris’s passion for sleuthing dates back at least to his days as a private detective and runs through his work as a documentary filmmaker in movies like The Thin Blue Line and his most recent, Tabloid. In his new book, Believing is Seeing, he turns his magnifying glass on photography. Through close inspection, Morris shows how much photos can mislead, and how much we tend to misread. He and I discussed (and occasionally debated) the veridical nature of photography, the impact of digital retouching and the truth value of his own films. Then, in the second half of the show, an excerpt from my 2009 interview with documentarist Jonathan Stack on his film Iron Ladies of Liberia. It’s about the presidential administration of Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who shared in this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. The film’s title refers to the gutsy resolve of Sirleaf and her female colleagues, not their governing style, which is more velvet glove than iron fist.
Two versions of photographer Roger Fenton’s “Valley of the Shadow of Death” from the Crimean War. In the more famous image at bottom, cannonballs litter the road. In another shot (top), they don’t. Historians have long disputed which is the earlier, more “authentic” image. Errol Morris offers an ingenious solution in Believing is Seeing.
You can download the MP3 here (if using a Mac, control-click the link and choose “Save Link As…” If using a PC, right-click and choose Save Target As…”)