Michael Courvoisier's "Signals" Examines Truth in Photography

Fine art photographer Michael Courvoisier takes strikingly beautiful photographs. But for his series, "Signals," Courvoisier uses other people's images to examine and dispel the notion that what you see in photographs is reality. More specifically, he creates digitally-altered collages using pictures taken from 1939-1944 by the US Government's Farm Security Administration (FSA) and the Office of War Information (OWI).  

FSA photographs were taken after the Great Depression, and focused on the working and living conditions of farmers, sharecroppers, and migrant workers. They were meant to inspire social change, to help the poverty-stricken agricultural workers of the time. The FSA was abandoned during World War II, when the OWI took over, capturing images of the country's industrious citizens and strong military for war propaganda.  

Courvoisier was interested in the validity of the imagery in these "documentary" images. As he explains, "the truth of the photograph has always been a debate. The dramatic shift from the FSA to the OWI project from documentary photography to propaganda style images is evidence that photography and illustration really aren't that different. The OWI photographers may not have had digital means to alter images but they certainly had the capability to alter the viewers perception and exploit truth. As manipulation and truth have been a central topic of conversation in photography and journalism, this series seeks to approach an early archive of work that speaks to this tension."

Courvoisier recombined scenic elements from the FSA with the propaganda imagery from the OWI to create completely new images without loaded meaning. "Without descriptive titles or captions the viewer is invited to create their own narrative. Typically the viewer of documentary photography of photojournalism is inundated with information in the form of image title, captions and supporting texts to help guide the viewer to the authors predetermined view. The objective observer is a purely fictional idea and not possible in reality as personal experiences dictate our lives and every person's point of view is different."

All images used with permission from Michael Courvoisier