In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, photography had all the status of a legal and historic document. It was often the case that whatever was photographed became ‘true' – ‘the camera never lies' – and whatever appeared on a photographic negative was automatically ‘real'.
Yet even from its earliest years photography was also used to simulate truth and to apportion a reality where no reality existed. By the same token, whatever was not photographed did not exist as the proof of its existence was nowhere documented. From time to time we come across old photographs which evidently reveal affection between two men or two women. We can only speculate whether the relationship between the subjects is one of friendship or of kinship. In these ‘orphan' photos – for often there is no one to claim them, to explain them – we lack sufficient evidence to suggest a sentimental relationship. In old family albums there are, of course, no photos of gay marriages – understandable, given that such marriages were prohibited or even punished by law – but there were sometimes ‘equivalent relationships' hidden in those ambiguous images.
The project Alterhistory (an alternative history of photography) uses these same instruments of manipulation to construct a series of ‘real' images of events which never occurred, although they did ‘exist'. Using a variety of images from the pre-digital age of photography, suitably altered, Alterhistory relates a facet of the history of photography which never actually occurred. It offers a tribute to all of those who have had to hide the truth and whose real lives were condemned to be forgotten.