There is much being commented on this week about Lena Dunham’s photo spread in the current issue of Vogue. Another site challenged anyone with access to supply the original Annie Leibovitz photos of the famously plain creator/writer of the HBO Series Girls. It shows the Before / After once digital manipulation is accomplished. Noteworthy are the very subtle body alterations and retouches, especially the light changes that make so much difference in the final product.
PhotoShop has altered our perception of what The Real is.
Photographers have been playing around and inventing from the time that photography was invented. The exhibitions at The Met, Faking It and before that Spirit Photography are recent examples of these extraordinary concoctions. In the Vogue case, it is done all the time in fashion media, and it is more about profit and the public relations of selling an image package than it is about the joy of the imagination. Re-creation and change is in the nature of man’s need. The obsessive change according to a media model of what looks good is a function of something else. The snapshot I include here of Beaver and Billy was taken yesterday and manipulated to give he appearance of a camera image on film. For those of us around these systems, we understand that there is always manipulation involved, whether by accident, by the state of the technology at the time or by intention. A photograph is no more about reality than a Rembrandt.
What the Artist does, however, is reach to some deeper truth so the manipulation reveals the Real rather than occludes it.