June 14, 2011

doctored photos, altered images by David Levi Strauss


interesting reads:
* Doctored photos (David Levi Strauss)
* A Second History (Zhang Dali)

Author and academic David Levi Strauss documents the alteration and manipulation of photographic images, a common practice today thanks to the wonders of modern technology. This was a technique also utilised by politicos in the 20th century. The Time article has some nice examples of such doctored shots. I like this observations Levi Strauss makes:

"At a time when any photographic image, old or new, can be digitized and altered at will, we should not believe any image that we see in print or online  or anywhere else. But we still do, because it is still in our interest to do so. Why? Because we need to believe in this visual connection to the real in order to make sense of what is happening in the world. Belief, or at least the temporary suspension of disbelief, is necessary in order for us to effectively apprehend the world at a distance, through images."

So little of what we see online is real. The preponderance of digital photo software means nearly anyone can take a "perfect" shot. Has our definition of "perfect" changed with time? No doubt one's appreciation of any photo is always subjective but it's pretty easy nowadays to correct exposure and other flaws in our photography. Maybe it takes someone with good technical skills to take good photos, rather than someone with a good eye?

An aside: software and technological advances seem to have created even more trends where photography is concerned. Have you noticed how Instamatic shots are now the place now (thank you, instagr.am)? I like the moody photos you can create with the filters but it's getting a bit old now. Also, the posed shots of people cupping objects in their hands, cropped at the upper body or neck, the top-down shots of food... The photos are beautiful but there isn't much originality around anymore, I feel.

:: another piece on edited photos at designboom

It talks about the Speech Matters exhibition at the Danish Pavilion at the ongoing Venice Art Biennale 2011. The theme is freedom of speech; on display are works by 18 artists from 12 countries, including A Second History (2003-2010) by Chinese artist Zhang Dali.

Zhang, who was one of Beijing's first graffiti artists, explores the relationship between history and photographic images through photos and text. Original photos of Mao-era photos are juxtaposed with doctored versions of the images. The designboom article has several excellent examples of these censored photos.

The photos displayed in Venice are only a part of the 130 pieces that make up Zhang's complete A Second History series, for which he travelled to publishing houses across China to trove through their archives for his investigation, carefully comparing a wide range of documents - from photos and negatives to books, newspapers and magazines - in search of variations.
"The resulting work constitutes an illuminating over- view of a political era that marked China for decades, as well as providing insight into the manipulation or rewriting of history for political purposes, and the fabrication of memory."
- Danish Pavilion website

The Danish Pavilion is at the Giardini venue.
The Venice Biennale is on until November 27, 2011.

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