I have been asked so many times if my photographs were “real”. I hope that whatever triggered them to fire that (sometimes insulting) question was because my photos looked good.
Are they real?
No, they are not. The camera always lies. The photographer always lies.
A good photographer will hide the stuff he does not want you to see, while at the same time, emphasize and even exaggerate the stuff he wants you to see. They only show you their side of the story and make (or force) you believe in that story. That’s what every good frame of photograph does. There is nothing more to explain. The rest is up to the viewer whether he agrees or not.
Photography is actually the opposite of reality. Sure you can make good photos in good weather but it’s the worst of weathers that produce the best images. More often than not, the worst situations result in pulitzer shots. How I wish I could say the same for reality.