In case there should be any misunderstanding, this is an image of an elephant, a giraffe and a monkey on a beach. The animals themselves are remarkably calm, and evidently have no fear of being attacked or hauled off to the zoo. The human spectators, intrigued by the giraffe, appear unconcerned by the approaching elephant and the monkey about to goose them from the rear. The giraffe itself seems slightly lost, perhaps wondering why there are no trees to nibble. Everything is very limpid and precise, andin the correct position (even the shadows).

The picture is, of course, a phoney. Its creator, Alan Dorow, has used several different photographs to create the scene on a computer. Dorow challenges our conventional acceptance of "objective" reality, and so we can legitimately ask, albeit shyly and diffidently, what he is expecting of us here. For instance, why should we particularly want to gaze at his cleverly constructed tableau of wildlife by the seashore? Should we arrive at meaningful insights, asking questions about, say, the future of the planet? Should we agree that men and beasts must learn to live in harmony or that sea air has a calming effect on natural fear mechanisms? More simply, is there a visual imperative just to enjoy the implicit absurdity of the situation?

Dorow himself is refreshingly down-to-earth. He merely seeks a way to visualise his dreams. "The gorilla goes about his business in a methodical way, much as an office worker does," he assures us. "In my dreams, these animals are walking along with people in normal, everyday situations, as if they belong to us."

You might expect ferocious debates to break out, as old-fashioned photography is sucked into the digital pixel pot. Not a bit of it. With scarcely a glance backwards, photographers whose eyes once blazed with passion for photojournalism's moment decisif now frolic shamelessly in electronic pastures, searching for a new truth. Suddenly, it's considered rather childish and naive to believe in the idea of the photographer "being there". Photography as evidence is quite beyond limits. It's what you can do on screen that matters - the laser print is all.

It is fruitless for unreconstructed photo-fogeys to rage against the inevitable. But there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Vinyl discs are making a come-back in the music- business and the nostalgic sound of the camera shutter may soon drive those damn creatures off the beach. Colin Jacobson n