The author is spot-on: Photography has never been about reality, despite all who might believe otherwise.
I would add some other points, too:
- When I hear people decry the lack of 'reality' in much of today's photography, I'm always tempted to ask them if they believe every image ought to reflect a human's Field of View ( 140 Degrees ), or only that Field of View which human's see in sharp focus ( 15 Degrees )? After all, those two vision factors are the ones that define our sense of 'reality'.
- When they criticize HDR/Fusion photography as 'unreal', I want to ask if they'd prefer to go back to only seeing 50% of the dynamic range of the human eye, ala non-HDR images?
- When they view a perspective-controlled image and praise it's 'reality', I want to point out that it's the brain's software that corrects the convergence issues of 'reality'. Convergence is what is 'real'; Perpective-Control is 'unreal'.
- 99% of photography, from the moment it was born, has been skewed toward making reality 'better' than reality actually exists. Yes, there is that school of contrariness that tries to make the images look 'worse' than reality, but that's the rare exception.
- In the process of making reality appear 'better', the short term results might, indeed, be preferable to the alternatives: Cars and dresses get sold, makeup artists make a living, jewelers sell baubles, faces get immortalized, etc.
- In the long term, however, I believe the crowd-generated result has been to diminish our valuation of 'reality', instilling a depression amongst those living 'real' lives that their's ain't as beautiful, sensuous, loving, etc., as the rest of the World's, that their's lacks the romance, the power, the mystery, the drama of everyone else's.
- It's not an overt, demonstrable point that I'm making. I cannot point to seven studies that back up my opinion. It's a lot more of a gut reaction. I just think that compared to 'media reality', everyone's actual reality looks pale, washed-out, desaturated, unexciting, boring.
- Lastly, I wanna point out that the vast, vast majority of our lives are spent in seeing reflected light. . . . that 'reality' is represented to us from photons bouncing off of objects. In the last 20 years or so, an increasing share of the media we consume has been backlit, deepening the chasm between boring old 'reality' and the feast-for-your-eyes media, intensifying the disenchantment that I'm concerned about here.