The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

I reject your reality and substitute my own!

REMOVING her ex-husband from more than a decade of memories may take a lifetime for Laura Horn, a police emergency dispatcher in Rochester. But removing him from a dozen years of vacation photographs took only hours, with some deft mouse work from a willing friend who was proficient in Photoshop, the popular digital-image editing program.

Like a Stalin-era technician in the Kremlin removing all traces of an out-of-favor official from state photos, the friend erased the husband from numerous cherished pictures taken on cruises and at Caribbean cottages, where he had been standing alongside Ms. Horn, now 50, and other traveling companions.

“In my own reality, I know that these things did happen,” Ms. Horn said. But “without him in them, I can display them. I can look at those pictures and think of the laughter we were sharing, the places we went to.”

“This new reality,” she added, “is a lot more pleasant.”

After her father died several years ago, Theresa Newman Rolley, an accountant in Williamsport, Pa., hired Wayne Palmer, a photographic retoucher, to create a composite portrait of the two of them because she had no actual one of them together.

That photograph—of a moment that never happened—now hangs in her living room. It still brings tears to her eyes, she said.

“It's the only picture of my dad and me together,” Ms. Rolley said, adding, “If the only reason I can get one is cropping it in, it still means the same to me.”

I Was There. Just Ask Photoshop.

I remember back in FAU the drawing instructor told us to draw what we saw half the time, and the other half, told us to ignore any distracting details that didn't pertain to the subject at hand. So in a sense, we were manipulating reality as we saw it.

Also back at FAU, the photography instructor (and this was back before everything turned digital so we were using 35mm cameras, and even then we weren't photographing reality. If we were, we wouldn't be using black-and-white film (real life is in color these days) has us manipulating reality. We had the power to adjust the shutter speed (a fast shutter to freeze the action; a slow shutter to convey speed of motion), the f-stop (a low setting to blur the foreground and background around the subject; a high setting to keep everything in focus) and even the sensitivity of the film (a slow film speed would produce super crisp pictures but required tons of light; a fast film speed could do wonders in low light but the results are grainy); all “adjustments” we could do, in camera, to modify “reality” (and when you get to color—then you have the ability to manipulate the color temperature; make the scene cool and impersonal, warm and inviting, or totally alien in nature).

And once the film was developed (less development, less contrast, a softer picture; more development, more contrast, a harsher look), you could futher manipulate the resulting images; dodging and burning, cropping, even the paper used to expose the image (matt finish, high gloss), as well as the minor touch-ups with a fine brush and ink to remove any white spots due to dust on the enlarging lens or dark lines due to scratches on the film.

And the stuff mentioned in the article? Just a more modern version of scissors removing that ex-person from your life.

Or a gross violation of reality.

Take your pick.

Because visual representations of reality have always been m anipulated in one way or another.

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