Allen's Blog

“Faking It” at the Met

Introductory text to the Met's "Faking It" exhibition

An exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York got a lot of coverage in the press: Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop. First interesting piece of information – it’s sponsored by Adobe. Second, although the Met is wonderfully open about allowing museum visitors to carry cameras and take pictures just about anywhere in the museum, there’s a bit of irony in not permitting photography in this show’s galleries.

Anyway, I drove into NYC, getting to the Met just after it opened and before the crowds. A number of the prints on display demonstrate the use of multiple negatives to add drama to landscapes (e.g. using clouds from one image to enhance what would have been a blank white sky), others served political propaganda purposes (doubling the number of troops in a long march). Others actually got a lot of credibility in the past century, like the image of a dirigible moored to a mast atop the Empire State Building (an idea that was actually considered, then abandoned). Lots of numerous manipulations, too, by a wide range of 19th and 20th century photographers. Naturally, there’s a companion book available.

There’s a separate exhibition of more contemporary images that were made using Photoshop. And I learned something about Photoshop that I hadn’t known: when Adobe first released the program, it wasn’t intended as a photographer’s tool, but rather was designed for graphic artists.

The Met is one of the world’s great museums, and there are lots of reasons to visit, even if you spend much of a day in just one small area of its collections. “Faking It” runs until January 27th, and there are a few related lectures coming up soon which should be worth checking out.

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