Faking It At The Met by Michael Barrie

CAT + I,, Wanda Wulz, Italian, 1903-1984, Gelatine silver print, 1932

What do people have against reality? Real reality, that is. I don’t know, ask Republicans, reality show producers, or long-dead 19th century photographers. You won’t get a straight answer from any of them, but at least the latter has a good excuse. And the really unreal, but often real-looking doctored images of many of these lensmen (plus some 20th century pros too) can be seen at a new exhibition entitled Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop on view now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. See more after the jump.

Audrey Hepburn, New York, January 1967, Richard Avedon, American 1923-2004 Collage of gelatin silver prints, with applied media, mylar overlay with applied media, 1967

It seems that right out of the starting gate –- photography was invented in 1839 –- early shutterbugs were tinkering with images, tweaking in the cause of art, commerce, practical necessity or laughs. Some fiddling was the result of inherent limitations of the nascent medium; the required long exposure times washed out skies, so landscape artists like Carlton E. Watkins would expose clouds separately and combine two or more negatives for a moodier, even more “realistic” look. When Matthew Brady arranged a sitting for Union General William Tecumseh Sherman & his generals and one failed to show up, Brady snapped the group without him, posed the tardy fellow later and dropped him into the shot. (Frankly, it looks it. But, hey, we’re talking 1865.) I was impressed with the 3D-ish effect achieved by a couple of small relievo ambrotypes, in which a painted background behind an image on glass pushes out the foreground without the aid of a stereoscope. Check out these early craftsman and artists who were photoshopping long before Photoshop, and with no tech support. Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop will be on view through January 27, 2013 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 5th Avenue, New York, New York.

Text by Michael Barrie for Pas Un Autre. (Michael Barrie is a writer for the Late Show With David Letterman, he has been nominated for 20 Emmys, he has also contributed to The Huffington Post)

Grete Stern, Argentinian, born Germany, 1904-1999 Dream No. 1: Electrical Appliances for the Home 1948