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Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshopby Mia Fineman
Synopses & Reviews
Photographic manipulation is a familiar phenomenon in the digital era. What will come as a revelation to readers of this captivating, wide-ranging book is that nearly every type of manipulation we associate with Adobe’s now-ubiquitous Photoshop software was also part of photography’s predigital repertoire, from slimming waistlines and smoothing away wrinkles to adding people to (or removing them from) pictures, not to mention fabricating events that never took place. Indeed, the desire and determination to modify the camera image are as old as photography itself—only the methods have changed.
By tracing the history of manipulated photography from the earliest days of the medium to the release of Photoshop 1.0 in 1990, Mia Fineman offers a corrective to the dominant narrative of photography’s development, in which champions of photographic “purity,” such as Paul Strand, Edward Weston, and Henri Cartier-Bresson, get all the glory, while devotees of manipulation, including Henry Peach Robinson, Edward Steichen, and John Heartfield, are treated as conspicuous anomalies. Among the techniques discussed on these pages—abundantly illustrated with works from an international array of public and private collections—are multiple exposure, combination printing, photomontage, composite portraiture, over-painting, hand coloring, and retouching. The resulting images are as diverse in style and motivation as they are in technique. Taking her argument beyond fine art into the realms of politics, journalism, fashion, entertainment, and advertising, Fineman demonstrates that the old adage “the camera does not lie” is one of photography’s great fictions.
"This engrossing volume coincides with a show at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art celebrating pre-1990 photo alteration, and argues that its practitioners were every bit as imaginative as, and by necessity more resourceful than, today's digital meddlers. A talented writer, Met assistant curator Fineman traces photo 'fakery' to the dawn of the medium more than 150 years ago when artists took license for both aesthetic and commercial ends, whether by inserting clouds into clear skies or huckstering 'spirit photographs' that featured ghosts hovering above portrait subjects. Are prints a neutral way of capturing 'truth'? Or has the medium always been one of almost infinite plasticity through which reality can be contorted for profit, propaganda, or fun? Often, the answer is the latter. In a fine chapter on how photo alteration can serve political aims, we see pivotal figures artificially inserted next to, or erased from, the physical presence of Hitler, Stalin, and Chairman Mao. The colorful section on 'Novelties and Amusements' includes a nude beauty air-surfing a gigantic moth, clone-happy painters patiently sitting for their own self-portraits, and elephantine livestock and produce. Each chapter, as well as the 'Discussions of Individual Works,' yields pleasures and erudition, and overall, this finely curated collection is an unequivocal delight. 276 color and b&w illus." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
An illuminating investigation of photographic manipulation, from the earliest years of the medium to 1990, which explores the techniques and motives behind the altered images
It is a long-held truism that "the camera does not lie." Yet, as Mia Fineman argues in this illuminating volume, that statement contains its own share of untruth. While modern technological innovations, such as Adobe's Photoshop software, have accustomed viewers to more obvious levels of image manipulation, the practice of "doctoring" photographs has in fact existed since the medium was invented.
In Faking It, Fineman demonstrates that today's digitally manipulated images are part of a continuum that begins with the earliest years of photography, encompassing methods as diverse as overpainting, multiple exposure, negative retouching, combination printing, and photomontage. Among the book's revelations are previously unknown and never before published images that document the acts of manipulation behind two canonical works of modern photography: one blatantly fantastical (Yves Klein's Leap into the Void of 1960); the other a purportedly unadulterated record of a real place in time (Paul Strand's City Hall Park of 1915).
Featuring 160 captivating pictures created between the 1840s and 1990s in the service of art, politics, news, entertainment, and commerce, Faking It provides an essential counterhistory of photography as an inspired blend of fabricated truths and artful falsehoods.
About the Author
Mia Fineman is assistant curator in the Department of Photographs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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