History of Photomanipulation.

Photo tampering throughout history has dated back as far as the 1860’s. One of the first incidents and famous ones ever recorded was of the iconic portrait U.S President Abraham Lincoln.


Many believe this could have been the first case of manipulated imagery in history, due to Lincoln never supposedly taking a picture in such a pose.

After scrutinising the image, it would explain the identically placed environment, clothing and position if the U.S President had been photo manipulated onto the other image than class it a coincidence.

The photo would have been manipulated by taking the composite of Lincoln’s head and stitching it onto the body of the politician, John Calhoun.

I would find stitching would have been the most appropriate manoeuvre into producing the image. Considering stitching was one of the dominant methods of editing photographs as the Darkroom photography began to blossom into the 19th century.

Techniques like burning and dodging were formed and popularised over the period. Where editing the brightness of the image to being able to remove or add a person completely increased in numbers. Until the 1990’s where the invention of computers allowed a new doorway into the image manipulating industry.

This document will showcase manipulated photos that were created throughout the decades and how it has become a large and dependable factor for businesses in present day.

Another famous image known for its trickery was titled the ‘’Cottingley Fairies’’, which was perpetrated by a couple of schoolgirls in 1917. The image itself isn’t manipulated considering nothing was stitched, burnt or added onto the image but it has always been classed as one due to the wide misconception of the existence of the fairies.


The image was created by tracing over several illustration of fairies from books then using dark, thin hairpins to hold the cut-out images onto the grass. It wasn’t until 70 years later where the women admitted to the images being faked.

Out of all the researched images, this one is my favourite considering the authenticity and creativity behind the production of the image. The multi-media that was used to initially convince their farther of the existence of fairies might have been the first to inspire the art and creative side of image manipulation of today.

Today with the invention of manipulation programs such as Photoshop at our hands, this would have been effortless to re-create. Though in consideration of the time-period and the age of the young girls, to be able to convince authors and entire generations older of the existence of fairies, never fails to speak volumes of the power that photo-manipulation holds.


Erasing details out of an image was also seen to be an attempt to discreetly hide the reality of a situation or enhance someone’s status. From editing soldier’s war portraits into family photos to make up for their absence at home to removing King George VI next to the Queen’s Mother to paint the Prime Minister in a more powerful light. Photo manipulation was present throughout the first and second world war regardless of the social dilemmas.

An image from a magazine clipping, showing a solider raising the Soviet Flag patriotically shows the inconspicuous use of photo manipulation. His watch is not easily identifiable but was erased to bury the fact that he was wearing two.

This indicated looting took place but the magazine publisher chose to hide the blemishes of war or face dirtying the image of soldiers in a period where it was glorified wholeheartedly.

As times changed and the second war had ended we began to see an increase in photo manipulation and a trend to want to hide imperfections. Focusing on other areas such as false views of beauty and flaunting the wealth that many people recovering from the Great Depression had only began to regain.


In 1989 a TV Guide presented one of the most outrageous over-exaggerations of manipulation, having used the Winfreys head after splicing it on top of the body of actress Ann-Margret without permission.

Retouching this image would be more difficult than the others mentioned, considering the original was in black and white and both women were different ethnics. This could have been a challenge to recolour due to there being no computers to adjust the tones of skin or dress hue.

One way to combat this was to stitch the images together but have an artist tediously retouch the manipulated image. The image would have then been copied and distributed onto the covers of magazines.


Since the inventions of computers and photo manipulation programs in the 1990’s there has been an increasing impact on the amount of rewritten pictures being shared and created online.

The computer has made it exceptionally easy for people to access programs able to alter and manipulate. As they were popularised and expanded world-wide it was not long adjustments that would have taken weeks in the 1930’s to create would only take a two second click at the invention of Photoshop.

Moving on to modern society the altercation of somebody is still a controversial topic but still exists on cover of magazines to even in-built features on apps on our phones to modify our facial structure in sepia hues and Snapchat filters.

We see this in the 2015 image of the singer Justin Bieber who had released himself modelling and advertising Calvin Klein underwear. The two comparisons side by show indicate the inflated muscles, enlarged hands and harsher tones as a false indication of everything society deems ‘’manly’’.

This would not be the first or last image of an image, especially of a celebrity who has being manipulated into the unrealistic standards of attractiveness. Photoshop has allowed the photo manipulator to use an enhance tool with brightness and different volumes to highlight and define areas on the biceps, abs and to pinch areas that are deemed undesirable.

One of my favourite advertisements in magazines have grown self-aware of the veneration and over-usage of image distortion. To the point they have even market their product based on the selling of Photoshop errors and the common phrase ‘’Photoshop fail’’.


What I like about the image is that it mocks the common advertisements who uses these tricks to tie in beauty to their products to sell.

All while being intentionally aware that today society looks for faults in something than investing their time in looking at the intended product.

The satire in this image is illusory. It confirms silently that image manipulation has come to a point where we as an audience are aware that it dictates our perceptions on a daily basis. In which we all aware that everything we see is now tailored and forged to our consumption, when in the 20th century two school girls could trace fairies and fool an entire nation of their legitimacy.