This juxtaposition of faked and real photographs within Hexen is particularly interesting when studied against observations that led to the gradual demise of photography’s claims to fidelity. Martin Jay asserts that at least part of the perception that photography was faithful to the truth lay, not in Descartian notions of objective vision, but rather in the newness of the technology itself: “each new improvement in … technology, like the stereoscope or colour film, was seen as making up a deficiency in the previous ability to record what was “really” there”.1 As camera technology progressed, viewers were indeed confronted with an array of imagery that extended the ability of the eye, allowing for the observation of previously invisible phenomena. For example, Eadweard Muybridge's Bouquet with rider (Figure 10) revealed for the first time that there were moments when all four hooves of a horse left the ground,2 whilst W.H.Mumler and F H Hudson's spirit photographs (Figure 11), astonished viewers and seemingly provided proof in the existence of occult phenomena.
However, as viewers become better acquainted with camera technology, it began to be widely understood that photographs could be extensively retouched, or even montaged out of several different exposures.1 This increased understanding that it was possible to fake photographic imagery led to a “growing disillusionment in the idea that photography was “faithful” and objective”.2 It is worth noting that disillusionment with regards to the veracity of photography “was never total” resulting a residual persistence in the notion that the photograph was objective, running concurrently with ideas that it most definitely was not3. Either way, it left the viewer with the difficult task of disentangling the fake imagery from the real imagery.4
Baring these concepts in mind, the process of disentangling the “fake” from the “real” in relation to Rosalind Brodsky and Sam Goldwyn in Hollywood and Chernobyl 3-Core becomes particularly complex. For these are not - as might be supposed - entirely fake photographs. For example Treister appropriates an original image which actually shows Goldwyn with American author Ernest Haycox, in which Haycox has been erased, and Brodsky inserted in his place. Whilst the original Chernobyl image shows a lone worker, set in the stark environment of the Chernobyl 3 reactor, into which Treister places Brodsky, literally wiring her into the fabric of the building (figure 12). If a residual belief in photography's fidelity to the truth remains, then it seems that Treister's choice to interweave “genuine” photographs with partially faked photographs, is another device designed to induce a sense of “slippage” in the viewer.
Top to Bottom: Suzanne Treister. Rosalind Brodsky and Sam Goldwyn in Hollywood in the late 1940's (2006).
Suzanne Treister. Chernobyl 3-core (2006).
Bouquet with rider (Eadweard Muybridge, 1887).
Spirit photograph (W. H. Mumler c. 1872)
Spirit photograph (Frederick Hudson c.1875)