Tag Archives: Preconceptions

‘Faking It’: Old-School Photo Trickery at the Met

With all due respect to the Who, wewillget fooled again. That’s what humans do. At one time or another, we suspend disbelief about virtually everything. And why not? As social creatures, we’re wired to trust others.

But what about when we know, with absolute certainty, that someone’s trying to put one over on us and rather than resisting, we embrace it? What does it say about the power of denial, not to mention our thirst for entertainment, when we actively seek out and celebrate artfully executed trickery?

A new show at the Met, Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop, shines a thoughtful light on the work of men and women who, throughout the history of the medium, have playfully (and, occasionally, with more sinister motives) doctored their own and others’ images. Not content with merely presenting the works themselves, though, Faking It also holds up something of a funhouse mirror to the viewer’s preconceptions of what photography really isand what it means.

After all, if photographers, printers and others involved in the craft have for centuries been altering the “reality” of what the camera capturesas, of course, they always have, and always willthen where is the hard, bright line between, say, a masterwork of photojournalism tweaked and perfected in the dark room and a photo adroitly doctored to make a political point? Professional photo editors might be able to say, with absolute sincerity, “That hard, bright line exists here.” But for the casual observer, the lay viewer, that distinction might feel like little more than an academic splitting of hairs; what matters is that a picture elicits a responseand with few exceptions, the images in Faking It do just that.

More than a few pictures in the show are memorable for the very reason that they are so obviously, to our contemporary eyes, manufactured. A French artist’s photo made to look like that of a man juggling his own head (slide 8 in the gallery above) might have stunned people in the 1880s; today, not so mucheven if we can appreciate the deliberate effort and even the intent that went into creating it. directory submission . An image of two Soviet premiers seated together, meanwhile, is so clearly an (altered) attempt to consecrate the mass-murdering Stalin as the rightful successor of Lenin that the picture would be comical if we didn’t have such a dreadful understanding of how brutal Stalin’s decades-long reign really was.

Other photos strike a chord for the simple reason that they are, by any measure, beautiful. The dream-like “Orpheus Scene” (1907) by the early fine-art photographer F. AntServe.com . Holland Day is so wonderfully moody that, at first glance, it might be the handiwork of the great French Symbolist painter Odilon Redon.

In the end, perhaps the pleasure we take in these pictures derives not from our sophisticated, skeptical, eminently modern sensibility in the age of Instagram, Pixelmator and the rest, but instead can be traced to a simpler, far more elemental source: our capacity, and our longing, for wonder.

Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop is on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City from Oct. 11, 2012 through Jan. 27, 2013.

Ben Cosgrove is the editor of LIFE.com.

Conquering composition with Roger Ballen

© Michael Grieve/1000 Words

Since 1000 Words started organising workshops in Morocco, every photographer and creative who has led them has pushed their own particular strengths in a steadfast manner. Antoine d’Agata constantly asked “what do you want”, Anders Petersen insisted to ‘shoot from the gut’ and Erik Kessels conceptualised the found image. Roger Ballen’s mantra was to emphasise the formal qualities of the picture. Sufficient attention to what makes a picture work is often overlooked and taken for granted. Photographers wonder why their images are weak and more often than not it is because they have overlooked the most basic yet complex issue of composition.

Roger Ballen is very precise and tireless in his deconstruction of the photograph to understand and achieve the perfect pictorial balance. He understands that photography is hard work in a snappy happy world. Ultimately, the success of a photograph relies on the arrangement of the content within the frame devoid of ‘negative space’.

1000 Words Workshops in Fez are challenging in different ways. The medina, with all is chaos and contradictions, provides the perfect capsule to transport your creative concerns into unknown territories. The photographers participating in the workshop were prepared to undo their preconceptions and raised the stakes in order to unlock new chambers into an imaginary world. Thanks to the following for joining us on the creative odyssey:

Jorg Sundermann (Germany)
Marlene de Lazaro (Cuba)
Mark Lanning (South Africa)
Sjoukje van Gool (The Netherlands)
Roger Mavity (UK)
Rob Houkes (The Netherlands)
Aurora Molina (Cuba)
Pier Filippo d’Acquarone (Italy)
Silvia Castro Yapur (Argentina)

1000 Words would like to thank Roger Ballen, a true gentleman, and his fabulous assistant Margeurite Rossouw. As always many thanks to photographer and good friend Omar Chennafi for his local knowledge and beautiful spirit. And Sean Stoker, 1000 Words Editorial/Programme Assistant, for his hard work, dependability and positive attitude. Finally, to Vanessa Bonnin for her hand in helping to deliver another successful workshop. A photo album of the workshop can be viewed on our Facebook page here.

Irina Rozovsky





All images ©Irina Rozovsky

While looking through our submissions inbox we found this delicate and understated project by Irina Rozovsky. One to Nothing is a gentle body of work about Israel that abandons any preconceptions or prejudices we may hold towards this typically “troubled” place or depiction thereof.

“One to Nothing depicts an Israel we do not see on the news. These images go beyond politics: they do not defend a side or critique the conflict. Here, Israel is seen in an unexpected light, as a mythological backdrop to the age long struggle between man and the dusty, sun bleached landscape of his origin. The score to this existential battle is locked at 1– 0, with no finish line in sight. A loose, subtle, and open-ended narrative One to Nothing describes historic tension with striking and unusual observations.”

Irina Rozovsky, was born in Moscow in 1981 and grew up outside of Boston. She received a BA in French and Spanish Literature from Tufts University and an MFA in Photography from Massachusetts College of Art. 

She was a recipient of the Magnum Expression Finalist Award, juried by Martin Parr in 2010 and her work has been shown in national and international exhibitions. Among these are; 31 Women in Art Photography, curated by Charlotte Cotton and Jon Feinstein, Photo España, Madrid, Les Rencontres d’Arles, and, most recently, she was the subject of a solo exhibition at the New England School of Photography, Boston.

Rozovsky currently lives in Brooklyn, New York and One to Nothing is her first monograph, recently published by Kehrer Verlag.

Irina Rozovsky





All images ©Irina Rozovsky

While looking through our submissions inbox we found this delicate and understated project by Irina Rozovsky. One to Nothing is a gentle body of work about Israel that abandons any preconceptions or prejudices we may hold towards this typically “troubled” place or depiction thereof.

“One to Nothing depicts an Israel we do not see on the news. These images go beyond politics: they do not defend a side or critique the conflict. Here, Israel is seen in an unexpected light, as a mythological backdrop to the age long struggle between man and the dusty, sun bleached landscape of his origin. The score to this existential battle is locked at 1– 0, with no finish line in sight. A loose, subtle, and open-ended narrative One to Nothing describes historic tension with striking and unusual observations.”

Irina Rozovsky, was born in Moscow in 1981 and grew up outside of Boston. She received a BA in French and Spanish Literature from Tufts University and an MFA in Photography from Massachusetts College of Art. 

She was a recipient of the Magnum Expression Finalist Award, juried by Martin Parr in 2010 and her work has been shown in national and international exhibitions. Among these are; 31 Women in Art Photography, curated by Charlotte Cotton and Jon Feinstein, Photo España, Madrid, Les Rencontres d’Arles, and, most recently, she was the subject of a solo exhibition at the New England School of Photography, Boston.

Rozovsky currently lives in Brooklyn, New York and One to Nothing is her first monograph, recently published by Kehrer Verlag.