What is the “truth”? Doesn’t the viewer of the photograph decide what it is based on their experiences and hence that judgment is accurate for them as the only thing giving them relativity is their experience or knowledge?
If a photograph is taken during a riot, the instant the image is made, that composition, that lighting, is the truth for that photographer. The viewer of the image, someone who may not been there in person would judge it according to the other representations of the event or the place. The photographer, the viewer or the mediator all have the power to caption the image, metaphorically or literally and therefore the truth may get altered but the scene will remain accurate (unless the image has been manipulated to change the content).
The possible route of the quote by the photographer may be from the work he was commissioned- In the American West. During this project, he photographed “the real people” on location in his portable studio using a white background. This erased their environment and only the character and their physicality was focused on. The personality conveyed was accurate as the subjects were captured after being asked a question. Avedon interfered with the location by adding the white backdrop and changed the model’s mood by his shocking questions.
The quote makes sense from Avedon’s perspective, as he was not a photojournalist. He did not use photography as a way of documenting or archiving the present in its truth however even the most impartial photographer can only hope to show a portion of the truth, at most, an accurate depiction. In that case, I agree with Avedon as us humans fail to keep objectivity and the images we create can never be fully objective or be the truth.