Essay Research : History of Retouching

Posted by Sam Hayes On Wednesday, October 21, 2009
As my essay is investigating the question of whether retouching is a new phenonemon I have been researching the history of retouched photography. Below, to include certain pieces that will go in my essay, I will discuss some of these.

The earliest retouching in a photograph I could find is that of Abraham Lincoln in about 1860. At this point, Lincoln was soon to become the President of the United States, so political and social image would have been very important. The image is below:

The image on the left is the final piece of Lincoln. As you can see, his head was composited onto the body of another man, a politician named John Calhoun. I think this was done as the pose that Calhoun is in looks very powerful, and in the quite early stage of photography that this took place in, it would be hard to replicated for Lincoln.

Another retouched photograph which I found interesting is from a later period. The image shows Joseph Stalin, the Russian Dictator on a boat with a group of men, one being a Commisar of Stalin's Government, Nikola Yezhov. The images below was taken in 1937 and shows the before and after editing of the picture.

As shown, on the left (The final image) Yezhov has been erased. This was because shortly after the picture was taken, Yezhov fell out of favour with Stalin (And was later shot by the Soviet government) I think that this image was retouched to keep Stalin looking powerful, as a method of Propaganda. It has been retouched to not show him next to a future enemy.

A very similar picture to the one above, is the doctored image of Adolf Hitler below. He was originally pictured alongside Joseph Goebbels, Chancellor of Germany. Once again, Goebbels fell out with Hitler, resulted in him being removed from the image, much for the same reason as Yezhov and Stalin.

I will explore these images more in my essay, however, I still am researching and trying to find evidence of manipulation in portraiture. I will go back to my lecture notes from Phil's lectures to see if I can find a suitable example.

1 Response to 'Essay Research : History of Retouching'

  1. tutorphil said...'> 22 October 2009 at 15:34

    Hi Sam - this is really interesting stuff; essentially, the subtext being that history can be fictionalised; don't let go of this idea as it will prove central to your understanding of Postmodernism when you come to study it with me in year 2... okay, so I'm thinking ahead! :-)


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I'm a student studying CG Arts and Animation at the University for the Creative Arts, I'm living in Kent.

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