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Friday, May 15, 2015

It's Photoshopped

This is what it's all about--rearranging pixels.
Photo manipulation at its
creative best.
Very often today when we see an unusual photo or a stunning image of some beautiful celebrity, we dismiss it with the two words in the title above--it's Photoshopped. It's good that we're skeptical as to what we see in this day and age; there's a lot to be skeptical about. Yet, in dismissing manipulated photos (the technically correct term), we are, in effect, also dismissing a very important 21st-century, Postmodern art form. We're implying that it is, first of all, somehow an assault on photography. And second that it is also not a valid form of art. Let us review my definition of art. Art is creative communication. Such art communicates, and it's nothing if not creative, even though it relies exclusively upon some form of digitized photography for it's source material. It amuses us. It fascinates us. It sometimes outrages us. Believe me, that's communication in it's truest form. And likewise, photo manipulation requires an idea before it renders an image. That's creativity. And believe me, it requires no small amount of skill.

Never mind the plowing, I want to see her eggs.
Art straight from the source--
Photoshop by Adobe.
I think what makes it difficult for some people to accept Photoshopping as valid art is the fact that it's fun and it seems easy. The learning curve starts out quite gentle. Thus, there is an extreme no good, very bad, terrible, horrible, disgusting, stinking, detestable quantity of such art assaulting our senses and sensibilities every day on the internet. Most of it is, in fact, not very creative, nor technically adept. It's only when one begins trying to create "good" items of photo manipulation that the learning curve grows steeper...steeper and steeper and steeper, the more one learns and the more one attempts. I know that from experience. I've been playing round with photo manipulation now for about fifteen years or more. In fact, even though I own the latest version of Adobe's Photoshop, my preferred software for such efforts is a program called PhotoStudio 2000 by ArcSoft, which tells you right away how old it is. Yet, with very few exceptions, I find it does all I need to do, both in preparing source material from which to paint, and in editing photos for what I write. You can judge my skills, or lack of them, in observing a little "youthifying" I did using my own face (bottom).
Mr. Potato Head returns for a family reunion.
Does anyone still use an airbrush anymore?
Very well, we know photo manipulation can make us look younger, can make us laugh, can excite, arouse, and even anger us, but in that we're all here with regard to art, let's keep our minds focused on the subject at hand--Photoshopped art. Actually there was photo manipulation long before there was Photoshop. Back then we called it "retouching." I remember once some fifty years ago of my aunt told of getting photographic proofs of her husband (my mother's brother) in which someone had removed the wrinkles around his eyes. My uncle objected, saying it didn't look like him. My aunt returned the proofs to the photographer explaining the problem. When they got the final prints back, they also found the proofs, on the back of which some one had ordered: "Put the bags back in under his eyes." Some of the ancient tools of the retoucher's trade, most notably the airbrush, can be seen at left.
The concept came before the photo.
The photo is only the beginning.
There is probably no better way to evaluate the technical prowess and creativity of the photo-manipulating digital artist than to compare their art with the photo resource from which it derived. The two works above are by an artist named Michaelo. However, unless one has actually tried using photo editing software, or taken a class in its use, very often it's hard to judge the skill, difficulties, and ingenuity involved in creating works such as the two equestrian themed images below.

Probably an advertisement, but the product could be coffee, skin moisturizer,
shampoo and conditioner, or perhaps a horse race.
One hot horse.
Copyright, Jim Lane
The fake hairpiece is simply my beard turned upside down.

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