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Day Trips

Exhibit explores history of altered photographs

By Gerald E. McLeod, Fri., June 14, 2013

Day Trips

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, exhibit, "Faking it: Manipulated Photo­graphy Before Photoshop" debunks the adage that "the camera never lies," but supports the idea that "a picture is worth a thousand words."

"There is no such thing as a completely unaltered photograph," said the exhibition's organizer, Mia Fineman. The assistant curator of photography at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City combed through collections from around the world to come up with the more than 180 photos created between the 1840s and 1990s that question the objectivity of photography.

Manipulated photos in the exhibit were done to compensate for photography's shortcomings, for commercial purposes, and just for fun. Many of the early photographers were classically trained artists, so photography was just a tool of their art. In the case of famed Civil War photographer Mathew Brady, adding a tardy officer to a group photograph was simply a darkroom touch-up. Politics prompted a vain Joseph Stalin to have his photos extensively altered. Can we ever trust photography again?

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, has a 113-year history of presenting outstanding and provocative exhibitions. "Faking It" is on view through August 25. The museum has organized a complementary exhibit, "After Photoshop: Manipulated Photography in the Digital Age," of modern doctored photos from its collection. Admission to the MFAH is free on Thursdays from 10am to 9pm. For more information, go to www.mfah.org.

1,141st in a series. Collect them all. Day Trips, Vol. 2 a book of "Day Trips," is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.

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