The manipulated image-some further thoughts


I was struck by Jones (2013) guardian article referenced in the coursework ‘manipulated image’ section. Whilst the photoshopped self of Tony Blair in front of an black smoke inferno, this photoshopped image by activist artists’ Kennardphillips has be around for a little while and one might even argue that its inclusion as part of the marketing materials for an Imperil War Museum exhibition i some ways neuters its political effect. What i mean is that when the provocative becomes culturally acceptable artwork, it does perhaps loose some of its political impact.

There are lots of questions I have about image manipulation and where the boundaries lie. As I write this short blog entry there is an ongoing on-line delete about photo journalist Steve Mc Curry’s alleged use of photoshop to manipulate some of his very iconic mages. On one side he appears to be being pilloried for questionable journalist ethics and a lack of truth in images that up until now have generally been regarded as exceptional records. On the other side he is being defended as having made the minimal corrections that ‘secure’ rather than change the truth.

I guess the notion of truth is at the heart of this debate and also for me the issue of whether when an image becomes a work of art is truth as important? I genuinely don’t have a clue about the answer to this question, but in seeking one I have spent some time looking at the work of Hannah Hoch the german artists who made many photomontage ( image manipulation in the pre photoshop days) Hoch used scissors and glue to create something new out of images, many for the purpose of challenging the Weimar Republics view of women in that society. Influenced by Dadaist’s her work i think is a valid today is it was nearly 100 years ago. I know I need to justify such as statement so as evidence i offer the image and commentary below:


I have read much on the internet about this work and there are a variety of interpretations of its intent. To me the most coherent descriptions hint at Hoch’s challenge to the fashion industry in the 1920’s and the uniformity it sought to to create in women. Uniformity can also implies compliance. Whilst the dresses on each of the three figures are very similar her stark montage of the faces faces literally show multiple facets and difference.

So what has this to do with the Blair photoshop image and the debate about whether McCurry did or did not use photoshop. I think for me it is bad to the idea of truth , but this has to link to the original intent of the photographer. Koch set out to make a political point, images are distorted to make a wider truth. I don’ want to get into the rights and wrongs of the Iraq war but the Kennardphilips image uses manipulate to make a wider political point, that subsequently has become and artistic stamen, to me the fact that it is at home on a gallery wall flutes the political message.

I need to reflect further on this idea and as I make the manipulated image for Exercise 5 of Part one I am struck by the idea that untruths may make more of statement than the truth actually does. There is something alarming but not all together unfamiliar about the point made by Jones (2013) in his Guardian article:

‘Art could not stop the war in Iraq. It can influence how that war is remembered.’

This is very true for a whole range of conflicts and artists and photographers body of works through history shape how the collective conscious remembers these conflicts irrespective of the truth or not in this images!


Jones, J, (2013) The Tony Blair ‘selfie’ Photo Op will have a place in history, Guardian Newspaper. Found at: (Accessed May 2016)

Zhang, M. (2016) More Photoshopped Photos Emerge in the Steve McCurry Scandal, PetaPixel found at: (Accessed May 2016)

Hannah Höch- German Photomontage artist. Found at: (Accessed May 2016)


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