Photography and Belief

Text by David Levi Strauss

In this exploration of contemporary photography, David Levi Strauss questions the concept that “seeing is believing.”

Identifying a recent shift in the dominance of photography, Strauss looks at the power of the medium in the age of Photoshop, smartphones, and the internet, asking important questions about how we look and what we trust.

In the first ekphrasis title on photography, Strauss challenges the aura of believability and highlights the potential dangers around this status. He examines how images produced on cameras gradually gained an inordinate power to influence public opinion, prompt action, comfort and assuage, and direct or even create desire. How and why do we believe technical images the way we do?

Offering a poignant argument in the era of “deepfakes,” Strauss draws attention to new changes in the technology of seeing. Some uses of “technical images” are causing the connection between images and belief (between seeing and believing) to fray and pull apart. How is this shifting our relationship to images? Will this crisis in what we can believe come to threaten our very purchase on the real? This book is an inquiry into the history and future of our belief in images.


Publisher: David Zwirner Books

Artists: ekphrasis

Contributors: David Levi Strauss

Designer: Michael Dyer, Remake

Printer: VeronaLibri, Italy

Publication Date: November 2020

Binding: Softcover

Dimensions: 4.25 × 7 in | 10.8 × 17.8 cm

Pages: 104

ISBN: 9781644230473

Retail: $15 | $20 CAN | £10.95

Status: Available


Dedicated to publishing rare, out-of-print, and newly commissioned texts as accessible paperback volumes the ekphrasis series is part of David Zwirner Books’s ongoing effort to publish new and surprising pieces of writing on visual culture.

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David Levi Strauss

David Levi Strauss is the author of Co-Illusion: Dispatches from the End of Communication (2020), Words Not Spent Today Buy Smaller Images Tomorrow: Essays on the Present and Future of Photography (2014), From Head to Hand: Art and the Manual (2010), Between the Eyes: Essays on Photography and Politics, with an introduction by John Berger (2003/2012), and Between Dog & Wolf: Essays on Art and Politics (1999). To Dare Imagining: Rojava Revolution, edited by Strauss, Dilar Dirik, Michael Taussig, and Peter Lamborn Wilson, was published by Autonomedia in 2016. Strauss was a Guggenheim fellow in 2003, and received the Infinity Award for Writing from the International Center of Photography in 2007. He is chair of the graduate program in art writing at the School of Visual Arts in New York.