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The Long, Weird History of Photo Manipulation

While "to Photoshop" is now synonymous with altering a photograph with intent to deceive, this not only pre-dates our digital era but can be traced back to the early years of photography itself. Having a product become closely associated with dubious practices might be seen as a negative thing but Adobe would seem to have adopted Mae West's famous adage, who once said: "Honey, there ain't no such thing as bad publicity." At least, that's one interpretation of its sponsoring role in a current exhibition at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Running until January 27, 2013, Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop covers a lot of ground, both historically and in terms of content, with photos arranged in such categories as Politics and Persuasion, and, somewhat self-servingly, Photoshop. Here we're told that, "In 1990 Adobe Systems released Photoshop 1.0. Initially marketed to graphic designers, Photoshop was soon adopted by commercial photographers, then by artists and photojournalists, and, with the introduction of consumer-level digital cameras in the late 1990s, by millions of others, making the art and craft of photographic manipulation widely accessible."

While Photoshop undoubtedly allowed users to perfect the art of photo manipulation, assuming the broader mantle of laying claim to making such practices "widely accessible" seems a bit of a stretch, given the huge number of modestly-priced image editing tools available. But this is to nitpick a worthwhile collection of historically significant photos, drawn from international collections. If you can't get to the show, the good news is that all 202 of the photos can be browsed online. I've chosen a few favorites for display below. There's also a free iPad app available that challenges you to identify which photos are fake.

The Sleepwalker
George Platt Lynes (American, East Orange, New Jersey 1907–1955 New York City)
Date: 1935

Fingers of Fate - The Tightening Grip
Date: ca. 1916

Woman in Champagne Glass
Howard S. Redell (American, active 1930s)
Date: ca. 1930

Decapitated Man Holding Knife and Head
Unknown, American
Date: ca. 1875

New Blanket Provides Protection Against Radiation
Unknown, British
Date: 1954

Audrey Hepburn, New York, January 1967
Richard Avedon (American, New York City 1923–2004 San Antonio, Texas)
Date: 1967

Commenting on this Blog entry will be automatically closed on December 25, 2012.

jacko23's picture

This is really nice works photo manipulation is one of my favorite because I can express my feelings.

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