“Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth”
Although Wilde was I suspect discussing an actual mask, I think that this quote could have an alternative interpretation when referencing photography. The notion that the photograph itself is a mask, a facade, yet a tangible copy of reality, and due to the very nature of the photograph the viewer excepts that it is a truthful representation of reality. Where in fact although a photograph is a mask of sorts, it does not conditionally tell the truth. For every photograph lies, a photograph is only one split second of time, the time preceding and subsequent to that moment are absent. Additionally, as a viewer we are not the photographer, and as such just composing and framing the photograph removes information. This deletion can also occur in the dark room with alterations to framing. Thus we can not with certainty determine what we are viewing to be an accurate representation of that moment. The photographer makes a choice as to how and what is seen by the viewer, he tells the viewer a version of the truth, but not necessarily the most accurate version. On viewing the photograph again presents an alternative truth, this time determined by the viewer themselves. For no matter what intention is set forth by the photographer, the accurate interpreting of meaning or truth by the viewer is only possible if the viewer and photographer are one and the same. As each viewer brings through life experience, learning and culture their own interpretation of the photograph in question. Yet another layer of truth, hence a photograph is a mask, but its truth lies not in one man but in many.