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Technology

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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