This week at The L Magazine, I discuss two shows at The Met; Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop and After Photoshop: Manipulated Photography in the Digital Age. One them is a lot better than the other.
Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop, now up at the Met, has obvious appeal. It’s the first major exhibition to examine manipulated photography, and manipulated photography—and learning to spot it—is fascinating to anyone with a pulse. To be honest, I didn’t think the exhibition could possibly come through on the promise of the topic. Curator Mia Fineman, though, has created an exhibition that manages to give a comprehensive history of manipulation, cast doubt over photography’s potential for authenticity, and provoke and reward close looking. You should go, and you should bring your mom, because she’ll get it too.
The show arranges its 200-odd photographs in roughly chronological themes, each arranged around a motive: as you walk through the rooms, you see doctoring for perfection, for art, for propaganda, for amusement, for publications, and to express pyschological states. The processes involved often take a backseat, but many works are accompanied by studies and negatives, placed next to the final images to show exactly which bits were replaced or blocked out with india ink.
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