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Photography is a lie; Get over it!

1413556356519_wps_2_Everyone_In_What_Looks_LiI keep seeing people post this story about how Pennsylvania governor, Tom Corbett has been “caught” photoshopping a black woman into his campaign photo.

At first glance the photo is innocuous; there is Corbett standing amongst his legions of constituents, a man amongst the people, listening to their problems, doing what governors do! And right there at his side is a middle-aged black woman, a huge smile across her face as she takes in… let’s say his plan for regulating the Marcellus Shale drilling project, because that is clearly the most important issue issue in her life. But now there is outrage! Apparently, his people went to and found some poor black woman and clipped her out of stock photo and clipped her out and placed her next to the satanic man running for reelection. People on Facebook and Twitter seem to be outraged. The horror!!! Think of the children!

Here’s a newsflash for you. Photography is a lie. It is pretty always a lie!

1413556371480_wps_3_Everyone_In_What_Looks_LiOf course he clipped the woman out of a stock photo. That’s exactly what stock photos are for. I mean, literally. The whole reason Shutterstock even exists is so you can go and spend fifteen dollars to download a photo of the unwashed masses and cut them up and insert them into your ad for something or another. In fact, in the photography biz, we even have a word for people like the woman in this photo. We call them “models!” I know, that’s confusing, because usually you expect that a model 5’10 white girl, with huge boobs in her underwear… and a lot of times they are. But believe it or not, sometimes models are are middle aged black women in glasses! You can never tell! Models could be walking amongst you right now! Scary, huh?

(I now pause so that you can subtly eye up the person sitting next to you and wonder if they’re secretly a model in disguise. I’ll be here when you’re done)

The thing is she’s not the only one. Look at the photo that is under question.



I’m pretty sure everyone in the picture is photoshopped in. in fact, notice the older black dude with gray hair on the OTHER side of Corbett? Notice his pink shirt (actually, I’d say it’s salmon, but I’m a dude and not gay, so I have to pretend I don’t know what color “salmon” is)? He’s the same dude from the photoshoot as the black woman in question. Only, the PR team didn’t feel like recoloring his shirt (I’m pretty shirt, they only recolored the woman’s shirt for contrast since they want Corbett’s vibrant blue to stand out in the middle of the photo). Notice the million people in the background, rallying behind their governor. They’re bokeh’d out (that’s a photography term for blurry and out of focus), but if you look closely you’ll notice that they’re all facing the other way. Kind of odd that people at some sort of political rally are not paying attention when THE FUCKING GOVERNOR IS RIGHT BEHIND THEM, don’t you think? Yeah, that’s because he’s not really there. I’m pretty sure those people are probably watching the main stage at Coachella or Lollapalooza or something, and they couldn’t  be bothered to stop paying attention Kings of Leon and pretend to look at some old white dude who ISN’T REALLY THERE!

In fact, if I had to guess, based on the angles they’re standing at and looking and him, and the variance of their focus, those white people aren’t really there either. See the man that Corbett is looking in the eye and (probably) shaking hands with? Notice how he is in better focus that either Corbett or the woman directly behind him. But then the man behind her and both of the women on the right are in better focus again? That doesn’t actually happen with physics. Some, or all of those people are models added after the fact.

And that’s ok! I’m not really blasting Corbett. I’m not really defending him either. There are plenty of reasons to vote for or against him based on actual policies. I’m just tired of people getting upset about photoshop distorting reality. Here’s the thing. Photography is NOT reality. It never was. It’s not supposed to be. Photography is an art. Photoshop didn’t make that happen. It didn’t even make it better. It just made it easier.

cw00172-73144734093Here are two Civil War era photos by Alexander Gardner. They’re 150 years old. Gardner was a famous photography who traveled with the Union Army and documented the battles. Many of his photos, including these two are now in the Library of Congress collection so that we, later generations can study an accurate depiction of what the war was like. Notice how Gardner is carefully and meticulously captured the reality of the the horrific tragedy of war? The photos are so different… Notice how the soldier in the photo on the left fell in the middle of the battle field, his gun falling directly over his head. The composition was perfect, if tragic. Gardner must have been walking amongst the dead and was overcome by the senseless nature in which this young man fell and struck by the serene beauty of his final rest… And then there’s the poor guy on the right. He may be even worse, because he clearly wasn’t ready… he was hiding in hiding in his foxhole, preparing for battle. He didn’t even have his gun in hand yet. And then he must have caught a bullet from a far off sniper. It’s interesting that both soldiers use the same type of rifle. You can also see the familiar uniforms of … Wait a minute!!!! IT’S THE SAME FUCKING GUY!!!! Why because Gardner had a couple ideas for shots, so he found a good looking dead body and dragged it around the battlefield posing it! And that, is photography people!!!

This is why I always think it’s ridiculous when people complain that photoshop is ruining everything. You can’t trust what you see. No one really looks like that. Of course they don’t. If all a photographer did was point a camera and shoot, then there’d be no such thing as a good photographer and a bad one. Everytime I pick up a camera, I make a million and once decisions about lighting, and angle and f-stop and shutterspeed. When I process the photos, I make even more. And this isn’t a digital thing. Film photographers will tell you that the decisions you make in the darkroom regarding which chemical baths to use or how long to expose your photo paper have as much, if not more to do with the look of the final photo as anything that happened in camera.

Wonder Girl and DemonThis happens constantly. Yes, we smooth skin in photos. We enlarge boobs. We fix hair. But we also adjust lighting and correct color balance godammit, sometimes we add people to photos. Here’s a pic I did of Helena as Wondergirl a while back. Here’s a news flash, the Demon isn’t really there! I added him later, just because I thought it would be cool to have the Demon in the picture. Her lasso also doesn’t really glow and there’s no logo floating behind her. That’s all fake. I did totally actually shoot bullets at her and make her block them with her wrist bracelets. She was a real sport about that! And I think she only got hit like once (maybe twice… sorry, Helena). This is why I get upset whenever someone rages about how uplifting it is when a model complains about the company she works for photoshopping her images. Or when Dove raves about their Everybody is Beautiful campaign. NO!

Photography is an art. Just like painting or sculpture. Or hell, even writing. You are not seeing what is. You are seeing what the artist wants you to see. That’s the whole point. Especially with campaign photos, which are advertising. Did anyone really the Hope painting of Obama was his actual skin tone? Were you really that surprised to find out Bush digitally quadrupled the soldiers he was talking to in his campaign ads?

So yeah, of course the Corbett photo was faked. I’m just astounded that anyone looked at it and thought it was real. I bet you also think Dukakis drives to work every day in a tank, huh?


6 comments for “Photography is a lie; Get over it!

  1. October 19, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    Aren’t all magazine and publicity photoshopped nowadays anyway?

  2. October 19, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    So the moral of this story is: Corbett’s team pretty much sucks at photoshop. Wonder if they’d be interested in hiring an old Black lady to help them out… Hmmm

  3. October 19, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    Joy: yep. Pretty much always were. Just using different technologies. That was my point.

    Lynn: honestly, I don’t think it was even *that* bad, really.

  4. October 19, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    Heh I am learning that mundanes have absolutely no sense what Photoshop can do. Sometimes I do the tiniest thing at work and people react like I am practicing witchcraft.

  5. October 19, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    well to be fair, you’re totally a witch…

  6. October 19, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    I mean valid, but at least when I do magic I say a few words in Latin first.

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