I just watched a bit of a dvd called The true meaning of pictures: Shelby Lee Adams’ Appalachia. He photographs people in extreme poverty and though he is an outsider to that experience he is of Appalachian blood himself. As he put it: he constructed the photographs but these were real people with real stories, people that were his friends. One black and white picture has an old granny, her face deeply creased, three prominent moles , a largely toothless mouth and a pipe stuck in it.
He has been criticized for producing a stereotype because she resembles the granny in L’il Abner (and his other photos are criticized for supporting the old stereotypes of hillbillies that we have gotten from Deliverance, L’l Abner and many other sources). But the fact is she looks like that and smokes a pipe, and Adams says that it is ridiculous that his picture should be judged just because this earlier stereotype exists.
I had something similar happen once. A friend and I were trying to write a screenplay based on a story we had run across in the Village Voice where a recent Polish engineer immigrant (unsuccessful) had murdered his wife (also a Polish engineer immigrant but successful) . The story was really and expose on the inadequacies of the mental health facilities (he had been in treatment, had actually said he was going to kill his wife, was released, killed her). We started writing this and tried to work in all the information we knew as accurate. Here was the problem: his name was Adam and her name was Eve.
In order for this not to be perceived as constructed we had to remove something true.