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The History of Lying With Images 72

An article at The Verge discusses a new exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art which traces the history of photo manipulation, starting in the mid-1800s. Early photographers used simple techniques like painting on their negatives or simply forming a composite image from many painstakingly framed shots. That period of time even had its own approximation of modern memes: "A large number of prints from that era — featuring decapitated subjects holding, juggling, or otherwise posing with their own heads — might be seen as the lolcats of their day, owing to an alluringly macabre and widespread fascination with parlour tricks and stage magic." However, lying with pictures really took off when business and government figured out how effective it could be as a tool for propaganda. The exhibit has many examples, such as President Ulysses S. Grant's head superimposed onto a soldier's body and a different background, or another of Joseph Goebbels removed from a photo of a party. The article likens these manipulations to more recent situations like the faked pictures of Osama Bin Laden's corpse, and often-hilarious altered ads featured on Photoshop Disasters. The article ends with a quote from photographer Jerry Uelsmann: "Let us not delude ourselves by the seemingly scientific nature of the darkroom ritual. It has been and always will be a form of alchemy."
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The History of Lying With Images

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  • Just a footnote in the history of lying^w mankind.
    • by Ferzerp ( 83619 )

      We do have a remarkable propensity for trying to mislead one another don't we?

      It's like the species, collectively, is a pathological liar.

      • by khallow ( 566160 )
        Well, I imagine lying would happen in any group of moderately sentient beings with independent, conflicting interests and an ability to lie, no matter how rational they might be. And when lying is advantageous to the liar, then it can't be pathological.
      • It's like the species, collectively, is a pathological liar.
        Sadly, Mr. Data wasn't until Number One explained about bluffing in poker. It was all downhill after that.

      • We do have a remarkable propensity for trying to mislead one another don't we?

        It's like the species, collectively, is a pathological liar.

        Survival instinct + intelligence = interesting maneuvers.

    • Wait until they get a load of the linguistic programming that has transpired...
  • by theodp ( 442580 ) on Saturday October 13, 2012 @08:44PM (#41645819)

    Scott Mutter: A More Perfect World [photographymuseum.com]. Before there was Photoshop, there was Scott Mutter's Surrational World [iwantcrayons.com]!

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Real estate. The scummiest "industry" that exists. Everything is image. Condos sold on image only.
    • Scummiest? There's SEO, insurance, used car sales, telecoms, social media, curated computing...real estate might not be in the top 20.

  • by ChrisMaple ( 607946 ) on Saturday October 13, 2012 @09:34PM (#41646089)
    Uelsmann is sort of a hero of mine. His images are boldly imaginative and technically impeccable. That he was able to create what he did in the pre-digital era is astonishing.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Pics or it didn't happen.

    • Pics or it didn't happen.

      I wonder if we'll ever get to the point that faking is so good that it can't be detected. (I wouldn't be surprised if spy agencies can already fake them so good that no one else can detect it.)

      Think of the implications for creating political scandals, or for getting "undesirables" thrown in prison.

      • by cusco ( 717999 )
        I'm quite sure it's been done, images are too valuable NOT to fake. A low-resolution digital image of a member of parliament having sex with a collie would be powerful blackmail material, especially if accompanied by a whispering campaign. Processing could be done in Brazil or Russia or Sri Lanka, and even if they took six months altering one pixel at a time it could be completely affordable. Information on an upcoming vote or classified data concerning an international treaty negotiation could make an i
    • Pics or it didn't happen.

      On the other hand, "Pics and it probably didn't happen" actually does work. :)

  • by giorgist ( 1208992 ) on Saturday October 13, 2012 @09:52PM (#41646177)
    The timing is seems to be pretty good for the photoshop fail of the Russian orthodox Church http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2126092/Watch-closely-Russian-church-apologises-Photoshop-fail-20-000-timepiece-disappears-wrist-Patriarch.html [dailymail.co.uk] Although Nokias PureView was a pretty good one as well :-) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ud0wbhUqX1Q [youtube.com]
  • have been around for AGES.

    • We photoshoppers...have been around for AGES

      You made this up, right?

      The begining of Photoshop lies in the late 80s. You're not saying 25 years or so, is "AGES", as you put it. Are you?

      • Photoshoppers in spirit sir!

      • Sir, you are implying that I cannot photoshop with the Gimp.

        I CAN most definitely photoshop with the Gimp. I can do a better job of photoshopping with the Gimp than most persons can do with Photoshop. And I can always do it at less cost.

        You are most definitely wrong, Sir. Photoshop is entirely unnecessary for photoshopping.

        • I can do a better job of photoshopping with the Gimp than most persons can do with Photoshop.

          And I'm sure most people can easily gimp an image with Photoshop. Otherwise, sites like Photoshop Disasters wouldn't exist.

    • Accentuating [eccentrici...gency.info] the subtleties of angels.

      I have great respect for national security, and I know I may have harshly ridiculed a likely candidate for Mother of the Year, but I figure it fair enough to retort theater with theater, especially since I became a terrorist for my interest in Ron Paul [slashdot.org] and very little of much of anything makes much since since.
  • by wbr1 ( 2538558 ) on Saturday October 13, 2012 @10:49PM (#41646423)
    I started with Adobe CD (Creative Daguerreotype) alpha 0.4
    The healing brush was a razor and skill. And jeez were gradient fills slow.
  • by reiko13 ( 1525617 ) on Saturday October 13, 2012 @11:06PM (#41646501)
    http://www.philipcoppens.com/cottingley.html [philipcoppens.com] This is my favorite story of Photoshopping without Photoshop. I still don't get why many people believed those photos, especially Arthur Conan Doyle...
    • It's all about "supporting conclusions that you wish were true." It's a good thing that our modern scientific minds are immune to this sort of fallacy.
  • by girlinatrainingbra ( 2738457 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @03:48AM (#41647595)
    Pretty any women's magazine cover and most of the photos inside will show you multiple ways of lying with images.
    • by Kugrian ( 886993 )

      Pretty sure it's the case with all magazines.

      • Also the pictures on containers of food at the supermarket often look better than the contents, and those on menus better than the served dishes. Strange, no?

  • by lurker412 ( 706164 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @06:30AM (#41648191)
    Manipulation--whether in the darkroom or with a computer--is only one of the ways images can mislead. Scenes may be staged. Even when they are not, framing an image in the viewfinder and deciding when to release the shutter determine what small bit of reality is rendered. It may or may not be an honest, representative sample. Every photographer knows that you don't need Photoshop to lie with a camera.
  • by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @07:38AM (#41648395)
    Flash: Photographers have been manipulating images since before photoshop. Photography is an art; and unless you are claiming to be doing photojournalism, where accuracy is important, adjusting an image to capture what you want to convey is part of the process. it's no more lying than the painter who leaves out things in a landscape or adds details to make a picture more appealing. It's the ability to compose a shot, get the lighting right, and then work darkroom magic to get it perfect is what separates a photographer from someone with a camera.

    Of course, photos can be manipulated to deceive as well; it's all a matter of intent.

    • Artists and sculpturers have been manipulating images for thousands of years

    • Photography is an art; and unless you are claiming to be doing photojournalism, where accuracy is important, adjusting an image to capture what you want to convey is part of the process.

      Above is true but does not go far enough, it is not the whole truth. Even in photojournalism and perfectly accurate photos, images can and should be composed in the viewfinder and diddled as needed in processing to best convey what the photographer feels is important.

      The only truly accurate photos are the forensic ones taken at crime scenes, those of OR-7 when he trips a shutter release during his search for a girl friend, and those from the security cameras at your favorite store. Oh, some scientific phot

    • Photographers? Talk about painters.

      In the tomb of a Pharaoh (I think it was Rameses II), some of the painting was about his "crushing victory" in Qadesh. Turns out the "crushing victory" consisted in avoiding being crushed himself.

      As long as there is a way to transmit information, there is a way of lying. News at 11.

  • One good book (Score:4, Informative)

    by Slugster ( 635830 ) on Sunday October 14, 2012 @08:39AM (#41648621)

    about this subject (historical propaganda retouching) is titled "The Commisar Vanishes". New copies are a bit pricey but lots of example photo pairs are online.

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Commissar-Vanishes-Falsification-Photographs/dp/0805052941 [amazon.com]

  • The famously creepy portrait of Stalin and Lenin was also in the exhibit: http://i.huffpost.com/gen/740931/thumbs/o-STALIN-570.jpg [huffpost.com] Stalin actually faked a lot of history. He lied himself to the top, but started as a simple thief and bagger. One can dismiss the idea, but not the effect.
  • I remember when Olly Stone released this - some folks mentioned that if the version of history is seen, it tends to remembered as real, rather than what really happened. (Not saying that JFK was/wasn't killed by a conspiracy - that's all besides the point).

    Moon landing hoax believers probably jumped in number after "Capricorn One".

Order and simplification are the first steps toward mastery of a subject -- the actual enemy is the unknown. -- Thomas Mann