A short History of Photo Manipulation - Buffalo, NY Portraits




Photo manipulation has been around for centuries, but with the invention of Photoshop, photo manipulation has been taken to a whole new level. Photoshop is used by professionals in all industries, from fashion to advertising and photography. It is used to create fantasy images and also to alter reality.
It has also profoundly impacted how we perceive beauty and feminine ideals, particularly when retouching models in magazines or online. Today, I would like to explore the history of photo manipulation, how it has changed, and its implications for our culture today.
You may wonder why I chose this topic today for part of my Women's history month series. It is because photo manipulation has been used to control our narrative since the advent of photography.
As long as there has been photography, there has been some photo manipulation. This started as experimenting with long exposures, double exposures, and hand painting wet plates and negatives. These techniques were amazing and helped create new movements in modern art.
These techniques were also used to help charlatans fake ghost pictures and sell other products to the public—especially the beauty and fashion industries.
In the days of corsets and hair growth serums, before and after photos were used the same way they are now. They show transformations and "you too can have the body of your dreams" narratives. Rather than digitally manipulating photos the way industries do today, companies back then would hand paint, airbrush, or even erase unflattering images for the ideal. 
Even our great-grandmothers were being told how to dress, what size to be, and how to smell or else, gasp, they would never find a man!
Although things are improving today with the use of real models, less skin retouching, and less reshaping, we still have a long way to go before companies accept that the average American woman is a size 14-16. 
I bring this up because these techniques were most often used as weapons again women through the ages. 
During WWI and WWII, photos of women in the work place were glamorized to entice them to take over the men's jobs in factories and the like to help our boys overseas. Once our boys came back and needed those jobs again, propaganda shifted from we can do it, to staying at home and being subservient to the man who took your job. This was also when universal child care was taken away so that women with children had no choice but to return to the home and depend on their husbands.
We have so much generational trauma that has been dumped on us over the years that we still struggle with diet culture, eating disorders, and beauty fads.
I am going to tell you that you are beautiful. You get to decide what that means for you. You matter because you are here. And you only need to be your own ideal. 

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