Photoshop Before Photoshop

Serious digital photographers often sneer at mobile photography with its tap-to-apply filters and unrealistic colours much like film camera photographers used to scoff at digital photography with its click-to-apply Photoshop adjustments and unrealistic colours.

The argument is always the same: the latest methodology of capturing reality does not capture reality accurately.

I admit that I am one of the hipster scoffers who claim that none of the reality capturing devices invented so far capture reality accurately but that is another subject matter that I've covered already.

What I did find surprising after reading a book titled Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop is that people have been combatting the imperfections of reality capturing devices by tampering with photos after they were taken pretty much since such devices were first introduced.

As early as 1846, only 5 years after the first calotype process was introduced allowing an unlimited number of photographs to be generated from a single negative, a man named Calvert Richards Jones altered a photograph he shot by painting over a figure in the negative in order to remove it from the processed photo because it didn't fit the scene.

Even the most hipster purists of all photographers who preached about the dangers of creating reality distortion fields by editing photographs would occasionally retouch their masterpieces. Such was the case with P. H. Emerson who would occasionally add clouds to the overexposed skies on his photographs when nobody was looking yet condoned anyone else who openly did so as well.

P.H. Emerson's  A Stiff Pull retouched

The skies in P. H. Emerson's works were overexposed not because he was secretly a lousy photographer but because the reality capturing devices at the time had a hard time processing certain types of light.

A Stiff Pull original

In those early days of photography colour had to be added after taking the photograph using gum bichromate, which was first introduced in 1855 but was not used until 1890.

The following photograph of my great great great grandfather, or greatgrandfather was taken in 1888 in Bulgaria and gum bichromate was used to allow the photographer to introduce colour and brushwork to it after it was taken. On a personal note, it looks like I've inherited his arched eyebrows but hopefully not the bushy moustache.

 Ivan Danchovsky c. 1888