Saturday, July 13, 2013

Faking Photos Since the Beginning of Photography

There is some (deserved?) hostility towards Photoshop in regards to photography in this modern age; certainly there seem to be more negative feelings towards it rather than positive, cuddly feelings.  Its use has been blamed on causing a variety of catastrophes such as raising the incidence of eating disorders in young females to even increasing hostile tensions between unfriendly countries.  It has gotten people fired; ruined promising careers.  For photojournalists, its an inexcusable form of "artistic cheating."

However we feel about it, the truth is that photo alteration has been around since the beginning of photography, way before the digital age was even imagined.  A variety of tricks have been employed over the ages to alter original images.  For some of these images, like Dorothea Lange's iconic "Migrant Mother," their sincerity and "purity" are forever asterisked, sort of like Barry Bonds baseball records.  

I have many complex feelings about Photoshop, but that is not going to stop me from using it in my personal or commercial work, nor do I feel that photographers should "disclaim" their work when it is being used.  People get to have their own opinions: is the camera a "documentary tool" only, or is it an extension of the creative mind of an artist? Can there possibly be a gray area?  Check out this great BBC video on the history of photo alteration over the last one-hundred and fifty years:


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