As I’m sure many of my fellow manip artists can attest, once you’ve done a little tweaking in Photoshop, you start picking out manip work everywhere you look. As much as news agencies would like you to believe otherwise, virtually no photograph today is published without first spending a little time benefiting from some artist’s attention. Whether helping our all-important celebrities shed a few unwanted pounds or just blatantly rewriting history, pretty much everything we see in print (and increasingly in video) is just slightly south of kosher.
However, don’t believe for a second that this trend is anything new. As it turns out, photo-alteration is nearly as old as the medium itself, as this excellent Scientific American article illustrates. Of particular interest is the reoccurring examples of totalitarian leaders photo-deleting individuals who had fallen out of favor with them or their administrations. But the truly laugh-out-loud moment is the before and after of Mussolini on horseback where the animal handler had to be removed so Il Duce could feel more safe heroic. A companion article discusses the increasing problem of digital-forgery for news organizations and examines a number of recent high-profile examples.
I find this all rather interesting. One can see just from thumbing through magazines at the dentist office how much of what we see has been altered, most of it for “harmless” reasons. But we must be vigilant for those situations when removing blemishes and performing non-surgical liposuction give way to blatant attempts to manipulate and mislead us. In an already heated election year that promises to only get uglier and more divisive, its a good time to start developing a critical eye.