Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Art of Photoshop in the 1930's

I thought I would change things up a bit and post something from an interesting old photographic book called "The Art of Retouching Photographic Negatives" by Robert Johnson, the above picture that I am posting is an example of a before and after retouched photograph that appears in the book. I found this book which was published in 1930 a number of years ago while browsing around at a camera shop in Victoria, B.C. In the Preface Its says the first edition was first published in 1910, it talks about one of the out of date materials being used was something called a "Negafake" Erasing Pencil ( I would love to see that one in the next version on Photoshop CS 3 what ever that is ) It goes onto say how the retouching methods of 1930 "are much the same as those of 1910 as far as pencil and etching work are concerned ".

The book says , "A very Skilful retoucher can make drastic changes in a face, such as closing a mouth that is open too far so that the teeth are showing, straightening the eyes that are slightly crossed or even putting into the negative eyes which may have been closed while the exposure made. Such things demand great skill and should not be attempted until the worker is really expert in the use of his tools, but it is quite possible to do such things and make the results appear entirely natural in the print".

Back then those retouchers were a big part of the portrait photography business and if anyone has ever read Edward Weston's Day Books, you will know how much he hated having to retouch the portraits he made of various people. Now a days a photographer skilful in the use of Photoshop or other image enhancing programs has now become the "skilful retoucher" of the 1930's. Sometimes I don't think that photography has changed all that much, the ideas are the same but its the equipment that has changed , giving us a lot more choice ( maybe too much ).

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