DC at Night

DC at Night

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Faking It in Photos

Believe it or not, this is a photo
It has been said that pictures don't lie. But that's not true. Long before the 1990 introduction of Photoshop, in fact ever since the beginning of photography in the mid-19th Century, photographers have been altering their pictures, sometimes to make them more realistic, sometimes to make them more illusional.

And it is a wide variety of these altered photographs that make up the new Faking It: Manipulated Photographs Before Photoshop exhibition at the National Gallery of Art. 

"From the beginnings of photography, it was a question of do we believe what we see? It's a question that still exists today," says Adam Davies, a National Gallery photo expert who has been giving tours of the exhibition.

Davies said that the fact that the first photographs could only be taken in black and white caused photographers to begin manipulating their photos. "The way we see the world is in color and early on photographers wanted to make their pictures more realistic and life-like so they began coloring them in to make them more like the real world," Davies explained.

Later, symbolism and allegory swept through the photographic world, leading to even more photo manipulation. "Photographers were saying I want to create pictures that look more like my experience of seeing, even if it requires deception to do so."

But the public became confused. "People didn't know what to make of it," Davies said. "They said 'you've been telling us that photography is a science and now you're telling us it  is art.' But these photographers were not trying to document things; they were trying to get at a more accurate view of reality."

With the surrealist movement, photographers tried to emulate the creations of such artists as Salvador Dali. "Here, photographers were trying to make it (photography) real to their dreams and their fantasies," Davies said.

In the 20th Century, especially in the fields of political persuasion and commercial photography, photo manipulation became even more common and creative. "People realized that what they were being shown was not necessarily the truth. The photographer is a magician, but you enjoyed being tricked. There is a Penn and Teller quality to the work," Davies said.

The intriguing exhibition is divided into 7 chronological themes. They are:

  • Picture Perfect
  • Artifice in the Name of Art
  • Mind's Eye
  • Novelties and Amusements
  • Politics and Persuasion
  • Pictures in Print
  • Photoshop
Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
If you have any interest in photography, you really should check out this intriguing exhibition which is running until May 5. A fun activity, as it is at any exhibition, is choosing your favorite item on display. This is mine:
In this manipulated photo entitled "The Two Ways of Life," Oscar Gustave Rejlanda captures 2 young men trying to choose either a path toward industriousness and fidelity, as depicted on the right, or wantoness and lust, displayed on the left. When it was originally exhibited the picture caused a public outcry. Of course, that furor may have also been sparked by the fact that Rejlanda's altered photo featured nude models, which shocked many viewers.

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