realness is the currency of the future
on realness, photography and unreal realities


“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
from Walden, Henry David Thoreau

Anyone who truly observes the world desires to examine it more closely. The deeper you look, the more you see. The world takes shape because we look at it.

"Photos, as they are now – namely sheets of paper or a similar material carrying information on their surfaces – are objects of post-industrial culture, one in which work is done by automatic apparatus. In the not far distant future, photos will become images appearing on electromagnetic screens; thus they will illustrate a future culture of pure, immaterial information, one in which society will be busy elaborating what is now called 'software'. The difference between the two cultures is that objects will no longer occupy the center of attention in the future one. This will involve not only a transvaluation of all values but a mutation in human existence.” Vilém Flusser, 1986

Vilém Flusser discussed the photograph as a post-industrial object, whose value lies in the information it encodes. Each individual photo possesses inherent value in its connection to a reality-based event; it is a historical artifact. In this sense, a photograph is a form of illusion that asserts itself as a 'true' representation of reality. Of course, we are aware that this is not entirely true.

Nevertheless, photographs will always prompt us to contemplate reality, encouraging us to reconsider what we believe we perceive. Photography offers us a different perspective on the world on a trans-historical level. The machine makes photos; humans curate them. All photographers are essentially editors. Photography is not merely a depiction of reality but creates a new reality through its existence.

With the current surge in AI-generated photorealistic images, we may eventually reach a point where the dark forest becomes impenetrable, compelling people to seek out and demand reality.

🌱✨👈🏼 Realness – reality is the currency of the future

In the future, for a photograph to assert a physical link with reality, it must display a certificate – a digital token that establishes its level of realness. Realness will evolve into a currency that determines the reality value of a photograph. We will develop cameras that instantly mint the RAW data on a blockchain when the shutter is pressed, with metadata tracking edits and measuring the photograph's realness value.

The realness value represents how well the dataset corresponds to reality at the moment of exposure. When you encounter a photo on a news site or social media, clicking the picture will lead you to a block explorer – Proof of Reality.

Imagine photographs with a high measure of realness will be rare. Uniqueness as a measure of value for an object of art could return from the 19th century as a rarity trait in the photography tokens of the future.

Now, how can we define realness?

Let’s speculate on that. 🪨

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