Thursday, December 3, 2015

Photo Manipulation Before 1900


A Brief Tutorial  on the Early Arts of Photo Manipulation

  "I believe it was probably less than ten minutes that went by from the invention of photography to the point where people realized that they could lie with photographs."--Errol Morris

(Below) This composite photo by Henry Peach Robinson used five separate images and shows the sophistication of the state of the art of photo manipulation  as early as 1858.

photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The photographic manipulation (below) was the placing of Lincoln's head on John Calhoun’s body in 1860. The photographer used a composite technique.    

During the American civil war (1861-1865), well known photographer, Mathew Brady, enhanced many of his photos to better show the carnage and horrors of the Civil War. The photo on the left was released in 1864 from a composite of the three photos on the right.

Unidentified French artist, published by Allain de Torb├ęchet et Cie. ca. 1880

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec as Artist and Model by Maurice Guibert, ca. 1900

The above examples are just a few of the myriad of manipulated photographs done between the mid 1800's and 1900.

By the turn of the century, the state of the art was highly professional. Techniques that were used until the advent of "Photoshop" included airbrushing.

The first working airbrush prototype was developed by Liberty Walkup of Mt. Morris, Illinois. Walkup patented the work under the name of "air-brush." His wife would later go on to be the founder of the Illinois Art School where airbrushing was taught to students.

The first atomizing type of airbrush was invented by Charles Burdick four years later in 1893. It was presented by Thayer and Chandler art materials company at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago that same year.

As can be seen, manipulating and faking photographs was a sophisticated art even before 1900. The tools and techniques continued to develop. A faked photo early in the twentieth century could compete with the results of a modern day "Photoshop" product.