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"Faking It" at the Metropolitan Museum

Monday, November 05, 2012

Curator Mia Fineman talks about the exhibition Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop, on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through January 27, 2013. The exhibition traces the history of manipulated photography from the 1840s through the early 1990s, when the computer replaced manual techniques as the dominant means of doctoring photographs.

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Unidentified artist. Man Juggling His Own Head

ca. 1880
Albumen silver print from glass negative.
Collection of Christophe Goeury

From "Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop," at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 11, 2012 — January 27, 2013

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Unidentified American artist. Man on Rooftop with Eleven Men in Formation on His Shoulders

ca. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Collection of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester

From "Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop," at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 11, 2012 — January 27, 2013

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Robert Johnson. The Art of Retouching Photographic Negatives and Practical Directions How to Finish and Color Photographic Enlargements, etc.

Boston: American Photographic Publishing Co., 1930
1930
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Joyce F. Menschel Photography Library

From "Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop," at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 11, 2012 — January 27, 2013

Alinari / Art Resource © Wanda Wulz/Metropolitan Museum of Art
Wanda Wulz (Italian, 1903–1984). Io + gatto (Cat + I)

1932
Gelatin silver print
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987

From "Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop," at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 11, 2012 — January 27, 2013

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Unidentified Russian artist. Lenin and Stalin in Gorki in 1922

1949
Gelatin silver print with applied media
Collection of Ryna and David Alexander

From "Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop," at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 11, 2012 — January 27, 2013

© Yves Klein / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris Photograph Shunk-Kender © Roy Lichtenstein Foundation/Metropolitan Museum of Art
Yves Klein (French, 1928–1962) photographed by Harry Shunk (German, 1924–2006) and János (Jean) Kender (Hungarian, 1937–2009). Leap into the Void

1960
Gelatin silver print
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1992

From "Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop," at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 11, 2012 — January 27, 2013

© Weegee/International Center of Photography/Getty Images (146.1982)/Metropolitan Museum of Art
Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (American 1899–1968). Draft Johnson for President

ca. 1968
Gelatin silver print
International Center of Photography, Bequest of Wilma Wilcox, 1993

From "Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop," at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 11, 2012 — January 27, 2013

Guests:

Mia Fineman

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Comments [9]

Peter from Old Greenwich

I find this debate rather tiresome. I have been a serious photographer for 30 years. My intention is to render pictures as literal as I remember seeing them. My only "manipulation" is to render them as faithfully as possible. For me, if something is "wow", it doesn't need any extra help. In fact, it will ruin it.
* It all boils down to INTENT. The intention of the photograhs in this exhibition were to play, deceive, trick and have fun. Nothing wrong with
that, but reality is pretty cool in it's own right.

Dec. 04 2012 03:54 AM

Actually ever since the advent of calotypes (aka talbotypes), where the process produced a translucent original negative image from which multiple positives could be made by simple contact printing, photographers have always done some form of retouching, including bulding composite images, mostly to produce a new form of Art. Hence image manipulation programs, Photoshop and alike, are just a nice and easy way to do this, and people who use PS do not do anything different from what early photographers were doing 170 years ago, in the 1840's. Image Manipulation programs allow them to be even more creative and artistic. And just ilke in the time of "Staklina retouching" photography cannot be a prof of anything any longer, as PS kind of software allows for almost invisible and sometimes indetectable manipulation...

Nov. 05 2012 09:08 PM
art525 from Park Slope

Even unmanipulated photgraphs do lie. When I was in art school in the 70s there was a very oppresive attitude perpetuated by the abstract expressionists who told us to express ourselves but if that expression was representational they were absolutely dismissive. They were incredibly narrow minded, you had to adhere to "the Party line". They would say that if you were painting realistically you should just take a photograph. But the fact is the camera is incapable of reproducing what our eyes see. That's why there are so many different types of lenses. I always take a picture when I am out painting. (I paint from life). When I look at them later I am amazed how different my painting is from the photo. For example- I was talking to a photographer and I said "it's amazing, for some reason I always exaggerate the middle ground in my paintings and make it bigger than it is". He said "Do you use a 50 mm lens?" (which was the default setting in the old days before digitals and built in zooms) I said yes and he said that 50 mm lenses push the middle ground back. And as we know you can't get a good exposure of a light sky and dark buildings. You have to go for one or another. And there is no color in the shadows and the color in general is not representative of what we really see. HDR is an attempt to solve some of that. And then of course there is parallax. You can't take a photo of a tall building without it narrowing in an exaggerated way. Everything in a photo is a compromise and if you get one thing you lose another. The human eye is still better even after years of technological advancement.

Nov. 05 2012 01:07 PM
Gary from Upper Left Side

Also, the famous Iwo Jima photo (actually a still of a film) of Marines raising the flag was re-staged for the War Department photographers. In fact, after 9/11, the same staging occurred with firefighters (ensured to be multi-cultural, of course) at the site of World Trade Center disaster--taking the idea from the Iwo Jima photo.

Nov. 05 2012 12:56 PM
tim from nyc

even without retouching a photo the image can be a lie.
simply by changing your point of view, selectively choosing a background, etc.
choosing a bad expression on for a candidate.
they are all lies.

that being said, that's just the medium: art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.

Nov. 05 2012 12:55 PM
Steve Giovinco from New York, NY

Its an interesting exhibition at the Met; its great to hear more about early photographic manipulation and how its been a longstanding tradition--not just a contemporary or fine art photographic approach.

Nov. 05 2012 12:51 PM
Gary from Upper Left Side

Several famous Civil War post-battle scene photographs were "staged" to be more dramatic by the photographers by dragging the dead bodies of fallen soldiers in the camera's field of view for better alignment than where the soldiers actually fell to their deaths.

Nov. 05 2012 12:48 PM
Hugh Sansom

Chrystia Freeland's summarization of the Kuznets Curve is not really right. Kuznets argued that as a country developed, inequality would initially increase, then max out, and then decrease as the country further developed. This seemed to borne out in developing, advanced industrial societies up into the 1970s. But the US leads the way in defying this prediction in the past 30 years.

Nov. 05 2012 12:34 PM
Aaron from Carroll Gardens

As an undergraduate architecture student, the work of Jerry Uelsmann opened my eyes to the power of precision within a manual, collage-based technique. Glad to see him represented in the show.

http://www.catherinecouturier.com/assets/images/artists/Jerry%20Uelsmann/untitled_1982%20copy.jpg

Nov. 05 2012 11:52 AM

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