5 pre-digital photo tricks and the apps to make them today
The Picture Show photography blog has rounded up series of photographs that were taken and edited before the age of Photoshop. The images feature surreal composites that prove that photographers were pushing the limits of their tools even in the “good ol’ days.”
The article written by Claire O’Neil and accompanying radio story from the American National Public Radio show "All Things Considered," frames the images in the context of what viewers expected from photographs in the past and present. Today, many people assume the commercial photographs we see are digitally edited to remove all imperfections, while we attach a sense of honesty to darkroom days of old.
O’Neil instead argues: “In a sense, people have always kind of known that photography isn't entirely truthful. In the earliest days, some manipulation was certainly tolerated, if not preferred.”
The images chosen by NPR from the Metropolitan Museum’s “Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop” exhibit are not those usually associated with analog image manipulation—there are no beheaded subjects and only one political “changing history” example. Instead, NPR chose images that seem to prove that photographers enjoyed manipulating photos for the sake of art, composition and fun, long before software made it commonplace.
While looking through the showcased images, one can't help but wonder how much time was put into these photographs. It's easy to imagine the creators sweating in a chemical-filled darkroom, adjusting and readjusting the images to make them perfect, only to display the finished product to a handful of people in their homes or maybe in an art gallery. Today, the same effects can be done in seconds using a mobile app and shared instantly with the entire world. What modern mobile image editors could be used to make similar photographic illustrations today?
1. Man In a Bottle c. 1888/Image Blender (iOS)
This image by J.C. Higgins and Son was created in around 1888. You can bet it took far more work than if they'd used the super easy Image Blender ($2.99) app for iPhone.
2. Max Ernst, 1946/Canvas Pro (Android)
This image by Frederick Sommer shows a man immersed in the texture of a wall. The effect is gorgeous, thought provoking and could today be done in a few swipes with the $2.99 Canvas Pro app for Android.
3. Io + gatto (Cat + I), 1932 / Double Exposure Pro (iOS)
That’s right. A selfie and a cat photo in 1932—further proof that the Internet is only a stage for our natural tendency towards self indulgence and pet idolatry. Wanda Wulz’s image of her face and a cat’s face was made by combining her self portrait with a photo of her cat. (Both images can be seen separately here.) You can make your own with the $1.99 Double Exposure app for iOS.
4. Leap into the Void, 1960 / Photoshop Touch (iOS/Android)
Levitation photography has seen quite a bit of popularity recently in mobile photography but the effect can also be found in older images. This image by Yves Klein, Harry Shunk and Jean Kender was created by stitching together two negatives—one of the man jumping into a tarpaulin and one of the empty scene. (Read the full story here.) Similar effects can be quickly created using the $4.99 Photoshop Touch app for both iOS and Android.
5. The Pond — Moonrise, 1904 / Sketch Camera (Windows Phone 8) and Fantastia Painter (Windows Phone 8)
This image by Edward Steichen is intended to look like a painting. By using the technique of multiple printing, this photo of a pond was transformed into a dreamy vision of nature. (Read the Met’s description here.) Windows Phone 8 users can achieve a similar result by combining the effects of the $1.49 Sketch Camera app with the layering tools of Fantasia Painter.