Graham began, by posing the question “do you see the world as it really is?” As demonstrated by The Dress (a news story from 2014 about a bride and groom who could not agree whether the mother-of-the-bride’s dress was blue with black stripes or white with gold stripes), people see things differently from each other. And this is how perception works – we all have a different reality. (See “Deviate – The Creative Power of Transforming Your Perception” by Beau Lotto for more on human perception.)
Graham originally developed this talk because so many people seem to believe that photo manipulation is new. So, for the first part of his presentation, he took us back to the early days and demonstrated that photo manipulation has been going on pretty much since photography was invented in the 19th century.
Sometimes images are changed for political or propaganda purposes. Graham showed us some historic examples, such as a full-length portrait of Abraham Lincoln which is actually a composite of Lincoln’s head and another man’s body, and Frank Hurley’s “The Raid” for which 12 images were used together to create the “impression” of a World War 1 air raid.
And sometimes images are changed for artistic or aesthetic reasons. Again, Graham showed us some historic examples. These included Elsie Wright’s “Cottingley Fairies” and Man Ray’s “Le Violon d’Ingres”.
He also showed us “Jennifer in Paradise” by John Knoll – originally taken on film in 1987 and later scanned, this was the first Photoshopped image. For more information SEE HERE.
With digital imagery, of course, manipulation was just made that bit easier. Graham showed us some famous examples of altered images. These included a cover shot of Kate Winslet from GQ magazine that was over-improved, a news picture from the Los Angeles Times that was a composite of two other pictures (the photographer was sacked), a cover shot from the National Geographic in which the pyramids had been “moved”, a mugshot of OJ Simpson given two very different treatments on the covers of two different magazines, a cover shot from the National Review showing a Barack Obama rally in which placards had been changed from “Forward” to “Abortion”, and some Kennard Phillipps montages.
For the second part of his presentation, Graham showed us how he manipulates his own images, with examples ranging from simple processing to more complex composites. He uses Photoshop Elements to change his shots using the standard tools such as Brightness, Hue/Saturation, Levels, Curves, etc. He also uses the Nik Collection plug-ins.
Most helpfully, Graham showed us both “before” and “after” versions of his images, together with some screenshots of the related Layers palettes to show how he built up his effects.
Nowadays, though, all this is just referred to as “post-processing”.
Graham finished by quoting Martine Franck (the Anglo-Belgium documentary and portrait photographer) – “A photograph isn’t necessarily a lie, but nor is it the truth. It’s more of a fleeting, subjective impression.”
This was a fascinating evening in the company of an accomplished photographer based too far distant to visit us normally.
More of Graham’s images, together with a PDF with links to images used in the first part of the presentation, can be found at grahams-gallery.co.uk