essay: the role of realism in photography

December 16, 2015

The Photograph is a reality that does not want to continue after the moment has been found within the internal capabilities of shutter speeds, aperture settings & a lens that sees what the photographer can see. All of this is for the mightiness that comes with the external photograph. When I use the word reality, I am placing an emphasis on the balancing magnitude that connects it to the other mediums that we use as a civilized society to express our conscience, intellect, moods, & existence.

Words & Photography by Shaun La, AFROPUNK Contributor

Actress, Nafessa Williams


What makes Photography a dominate reality that is stronger (which does not mean that it is a better medium, just a medium that depends on reality in a greater manner) than the other mediums such as writing, acting, painting, sculpture & dance would be the placement of a photograph always being within an existence, during & after the fact that a moment has been framed & pulled into a camera, a visual proceed, once the shutter button has been pressed down on.


Honey dropping off in some milk.


The discontinuing factor of reality is completely tied into the silence that once a photograph happens, there is no rephotographing of a moment that can originally exist. One may wonder about the contribution of post-production & its dependency on the photograph. Post-production is not a part of the process when the photograph is being taken, & it is squarely an additive that does not decide the reality factor; furthermore, I will use the example of someone celebrating their birthday twice a year. The 1st birthday is the original (when the photograph is taken with a camera) & the second celebration (post-production) would be a conscious decision that is a resultant of the original birth date.


Actor, Terrell Tilford. 

Model, Shakara.


Reality is the framework of a photograph. The most commercial, beautified, fashion photography to the cold & harsh photojournalism of war torn countries are tied in a knot together, with a set of realities that does not clash with one another. Despite where an onlooker may prescribe their personal photographic taste to be, the photograph is always about a person, place or thing. The reality of the photographer aiming for a sense of keeping reality is a solution, even though the reality within a moment will be passing on through future lifetimes.


A child in Harlem playing with a bubble.


If Photography abandoned its innate reality quality, then it would be dropping its uniqueness into fantasies that would overtake the ultimate sight that comes with looking over the photograph. What Photography should always abide to, without any reservations would be to know that the livelihood of the moment should always be a reality that is for the sake of future civilizations to look back on our Photography & see our visual lexicon; if Photography does anything less than this, our bare existence would be lost in representations that is following other mediums that found their own leadership qualities that branched off into artistic divisions, where the writer can write with freedom, painters can paint with mental intentions, actors can play any role, singers can belt our a unique voice, musicians can play to the Heavens, & dancers can find their own movements.

It is about time that Photography with its youthful age (under 200 years old) obliges to its own self-rule with realizing that reality has its own visual superiority, belonging to no other medium or art form.


Actress, Miriam Morales. 

A Protester expressing her view in Harlem.

Central Park Bridge.

Self-Portrait, Shaun La.

* Shaun La is a writer & photographer, who is working on a book titled, The Perpetual Intellectual View called Photography: Essays. His official website can be viewed here: