Digitally altered photographs may be commonplace today, but they are nothing new. The ability to modify camera images is as old as photography itself—only the methods have changed. Tracing the practice from the 1840s through the 1980s, Faking It: Manipulated Photography before Photoshop shows that photography has always been a medium of fabricated truths and artful lies.
The captivating images in this international loan exhibition offer a new understanding of photographic history and the medium’s relationship to visual truth. Nearly every type of manipulation now associated with photography was also part of the pre-digital repertoire: smoothing away wrinkles, slimming waistlines, adding or removing people from a scene, even creating events that never took place.
Whether modified in the service of art, politics, news, entertainment, or commerce, the pictures in Faking It adopt the seamlessly realistic appearance of conventional photographs. They aim to convince the eye, even if the mind rebels at the scenarios they conjure, such as a woman bathing in a glass of champagne or a man juggling his own head. Faking It shows that the old adage "the camera never lies" has always been photography's supreme fiction.
Accompanying the exhibition is an illustrated catalogue, available through the MFAH Shop (713.639.7360) and the Museum's Hirsch Library (713.639.7325).