A disclaimer: Nothing in this year's VICE photo issue is as it appears to be. Each page of the magazine is actually a piece of paper that has been decorated with ink by our printer in Sussex, Wisconsin, in collaboration with our team here at VICE, so that it looks like something it is not. To further illustrate my point: The image below is not a blue sky dotted with perfect clouds, seen through the gauzy curtains of a dream window; it's actually pixels on your computer screen changing color, or some shit.
But you knew that already. I'm just trying to say that photographs are never reality—they're always the subjective opinion of someone who is releasing the shutter of a camera at a certain moment. It's more or less a 1/8th-second crop of the photographer's reality, or whatever reality he or she wants you to think existed. Photographs are unreliable. Pictures lie to millions of people every day in more ways than we could list here. Even so, some images have the power to rally entire generations to a cause, move any one of us to tears in their presence, allow the dead to live forever, and more.
It's from this slippery and uncertain vantage that VICE's 2014 photo issue takes its perspective. Curated along an expanding of the term trompe l'oeil, this year's edition is a showcase of smoke and mirrors, featuring photographic illusions and transformations of all kinds. The issue includes a wide range of visual tricks, deceptions, and transformations by some of the greatest artists working today. Contributions from venerated photographers whose images have changed the world—such as Weegee, Cindy Sherman, and Laurie Simmons—share pages with the visionaries of tomorrow. Here are just a few of the issue's highlights:
The magazine has a double cover by Michael Bühler-Rose—there's an eyeball with a hole punched through it you can rip off, and the reverse has instructions for a ceremony to remove the evil eye.
There's a three-page foldout by Cindy Sherman—an early work made when she was in art school.
Kevin Zucker contributed sunsets photographed on color Polaroid film, though he removed most of the color by shooting them through gray plastic.
While photographs are never reality, I will admit they depict some kind of absolute. The camera is, after all, a mechanical device: The lens records whatever appears before it with a cold yet democratically unflinching eye. And that fickle kind of truth is an extremely powerful force, if you can harness it. So I urge readers to greet the 2014 photo issue with skepticism. Look closely and never take its pages at face value. But find comfort in the uncertainty of not knowing what happened before of after the shutter fell—in that hazy, brief window, the very essence of human existence can be crystalized, forever.
An exhibition of work from the VICE photo issue 2014 will open at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn on July 31st and remain on view through August 10th.
See more of the photo issue's content here.
Download the iPad edition here.
Matthew Leifheit is our photo editor and is largely responsible for putting this fantastic issue together. Follow him on Twitter.