When The Lens Sees What We Don't.
If I am photographing my own life (for what else can I photograph after all?) then how can I use a lens that does anything other than come close to standard vision? A very long focal length or a very wide angle might show what was there in a sense – but would it be what I saw? And if it doesn’t show what I saw then what is it? As I stand about a yard from a window, I am just about aware of its two side uprights in my peripheral vision. Beyond that I am aware of objects of course, almost to 180 degrees, but I couldn’t identify them if I didn’t know what they were. As I put an 18mm digital lens to my eye it captures the periphery much more sharply than my vision does since the sensor is uniformly sensitive throughout. And a longer lens – beyond around 50mm - leaves out things that I can see clearly and so over-emphasises the predominance of central vision in the human eye.
If a photograph is not roughly what you saw then what is it? If not that, then what? The only answer can be – it is invention. It is what you wished you’d seen, what you thought you saw, what you hoped to see, what you nearly saw, what someone told you you’d see, what you thought would make an impressive photograph. It’s a kind of dream. With a standard lens of some kind what you fix on the sensor is some kind of reality. With focal lengths that go beyond that, aren’t we just making reality up rather than seeing it?