I’ve known since childhood that the things you see in the movies aren’t real. The witch and the flying monkeys of “The Wizard of Oz” kept me awake for a few nights, but my parents assured me that they were just actors with makeup and they were “pretending” just as I pretended to be a princess. The first movie that caused me to doubt them was “The Blob” (1958)- a terrifying science fiction movie starring Steve McQueen and featuring a jello-like alien creature that consumed everything in its path. I had nightmares for weeks. But eventually, as all children do, I learned to separate fact from fiction.
Or did I? As it turns out, many of the things I have seen and heard and read over the years have been elaborate manipulations, hoaxes, fakes, scams, pranks, tricks, and lies. None of them were identified as such at the time and I never guessed they were not real. I was reminded of that recently by this slideshow of altered images: “Hoaxes, fakes, and doctored photos through history.” (Be sure to see images 22, 34, and 37.)
The most disturbing doctored photos are the ones that appear on the covers of women’s magazines. I’ve heard complaints before from stars such as Jamie Lee Curtis about the airbrushing and “digital slimming” done by professional photographers. Some photos are even created by placing the head of one person on the body of another. We are accustomed to “body doubles” in movies, but in a magazine it seems like a dirty trick, especially when it is perceived as reality by young impressionable girls who think their body image could ever match the perfect (fake) ones they see!
I spent years trying to cook the perfect turkey for Thanksgiving, only to find out that most of the magazine pictures I was referencing were fakes. The turkeys in the photos were perfectly plump and browned evenly because they weren’t cooked- most were browned with a little hand torch. Some were even plastic! I learned all about fake food used for photos while visiting a professional food photographer’s studio in 1990.
Ansel Adams manipulated many of his landscape images in the dark room in order to create the lights and shadows he saw in his imagination. Photographers have always added or removed people, objects, and animals from photos. With digital cameras and amazing software it’s possible to do almost anything with a photo. Unfortunately that makes all of us easy to fool. And it makes me cynical about so many things that I see.
Seeing is believing…but only in person with your own two eyes. Even then you have to be careful!