The authority we invest in a photographic image and the veracity we assign to it aren't newly slippery issues, specific to the age of Photoshop. They are as old as photography itself -- a medium that emerged (going on 180 years ago) with simultaneous claims on both scientific accuracy and artistic license. Photography has always had a complicated relationship with truth, and different generations have probed the nature of that bond in different ways, with a range of tools and a variety of slants to their questions.
Enter Noah Doely, a young artist who turns Steve Turner Contemporary's small upstairs gallery into a visual and intellectual resonating chamber on the theme of authenticity. His images greet us immediately with a lie, but a delicious and seductive one, an act of fakery akin to fine theater. Made using 19th century processes -- tintype and ambrotype -- the photographs announce themselves as old, originating in another era. Characters, costumes and settings too. But as in Stephen Berkman's work, which Doely's closely resembles, the past is filtered through a sensibility rooted in the present, schooled in the philosophical dynamics of artistic authorship. The images are provocative betrayals, wonderfully persuasive frauds.
"The Expanse of a Fact" is a tight group of images centered on visual exploration of the cosmos. In one fantastic triptych, Doely presents a moonscape of milky craters shot, it seems, from close to the surface. Bracketing the picture is another scape, showing an older man studying that same surface, which is actually a model, and another, showing workers in the process of fabricating it.