Image Manipulation

In this blog post, we will be looking at some of my research for the 2nd Assignment on Unit 34 Image Manipulation. As with the first unit, and with other units in my Photography Diploma, we need to create some research to create our own ideas. This post will be recapping some of my original research on image manipulation, but going further than just looking at the differences between retouching and manipulating. (To have a read of the post click here)

What is Image Manipulation?

So we know that Image manipulation/Photo manipulation is applying editing techniques to photographs, in order to alter the image or create an illusion with the image. Simple editing image such as an enhancement or correction to the image is known as retouching.

Image manipulation can be done digitally but has been done on film photography for many years!

  • Photo manipulation through film was done with ink and paint to achieve an air brushed effect. In film you were also able to produce double exposures or multiple exposures. Results can be similar to digital image manipulation but harder and has more risks involved (for examples having to restart the whole process, while digital image manipulation now allows you to roll-back an adjustment if it isn’t right)
    • An early example of photo manipulation on film was in the early 1860’s, when Abraham Lincoln’s head was put on the portrait of John Calhoun.
    • Another example would be the picture of Stalin and commissar Nikolai Yezhov these two pictures have infamously been called the “Vanishing Commissar” (I will be coming back to this later on)
  • The 1980’s was the dawn of digital image manipulation, it was however limited to Quantel Computers running Paintbox and Scitex imaging workstations. An alternative was introduced from Silicon Graphics running Barco Creator. However most of these solutions were replaced by the introduction of Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop has earned for 25 years and is considered by many as the industry standard for image manipulation.
    • It comes as a surprise to many but Adobe’s Photoshop has had a cultural impact on society in many different ways:
      • Photoshop disasters – is a phrase which refers to when an edit on an image has been done poorly or that it looks over the top (fake).
      • Photoshop Contest – A photoshop contest is an online gam where someone posts an image that needs to be edited and contestants try to come up with the best edit.
      • Instead of saying “that image has been edited” or “the image has been digitally manipulated”, people instead say “that image has been photoshopped”. However Adobe discourages this as people assume all images are edited within the same program, This devalues Adobe’s trademark and causes it to become generic.

There are many positives to consider when thinking about digital image manipulation, it allows us to correct images if the exposure was tricky to achieve it allows us to create images that distort reality. However there are negatives to image manipulation and when it is suitable to go far with manipulating an image.

Political Issues with Image Manipulation:

  • There have been many cases where photographs have been manipulated for political propaganda. As stated before as an early example of film photo manipulation. When Nikolai Yezhov was executed in 1940, Stalin ordered the original image to destroyed and retouched to have Nikolai removed from the photo. This was to help keep Stalin’s regime in power and in check and remove any opposition.
  • However there is some good to Politics having problem with Image Manipulation recently image manipulation is used within Glamour Photography allowing editors to creates these so called perfect people. Society has taken action in forming pressure groups to get Governments to do something about these heavily manipulated images.
    • In the U.K the Advertising Standards Authority has banned an advertisement from Lancôme. (Article here)
    • In the U.S they banned an images from Magazine Cover Girl. (Article here)

Societies Issues with image Manipulation:

  • Image manipulation allows us to create “perfect humans”, which alters our perceptions on fact and fiction. These change the majority of societies views, on what is considered beautiful. These views can cause stress to people trying to live a healthier lifestyle, as it can be impossible to achieve those looks. Therefore this can put people at risk of damaging there health, but could also have impact on their self esteem.
    • Celebrities such as Kiera Knightly and Brad Pitt have partnered with the American Medical Association to “take a stand against rampant photo retouching”‘ declaring it the practice detrimental to your health.
  • There is a growing body of writers and photographers devoted to the ethical use of image manipulation. The National Press Photographers Associations ( NPPA ), have a set code for promoting the accuracy of published images.
  • Susan Sontang wrote an Article in 1977 called “On Photography“, Sontang discusses whether we should object to photo manipulation and to what extent. “Photographers, which fiddle with the scale of the world, themselves get reduced, blown-up, cropped retouched, doctored and tricked out”

Where can Image Manipulation be Used:

Glamour Photography – Image Manipulation can be used to alter a models appearance. They can change many features of the model such as: skin complexion, hair colour, body shape and other features, that can cause you to believe it is an entirely different person. Glamour Photo manipulation has come under criticism for creating controversial images of humans.

Fashion Photography – can link with glamour photography on altering a models appearance, but also to alter the location of where the shoot was taken. Or to create more surrealistic images that communicate the themes of the clothes across the image not just the clothes. (See Nick Knight or Annie Leibovitz)

It is also used in: Product Photography, Commercial Photography, Campaign Photography and many more.

What I want you to take away from this is that though Image Manipulation has a terrible dark side, it has the potential to allow use to create magnificent work. These could lead to a change in the way act in society (in the case of campaign photography/commercial photography) or to allow us to repair an almost perfect photo.

I must again apologise for the accidental publishing of this post I don’t know why it happened again but I will get to the bottom of this. I will also be publishing the project evaluation for Unit 29 Location Techniques, which will bring that brief to a close as well.


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