The urge to modify camera images is as old as photography itself—only the methods have changed. Nearly every type of manipulation we now associate with digital photography was also part of the medium’s pre-digital repertoire: smoothing away wrinkles, slimming waistlines, adding or removing people from the scene—even fabricating events that never took place, and all that to satisfy our culture’s desire for ultimate perfection. Some call it an art form; for others, it is simply glorified fakery, but all in all it requires a lot of creativity, precision, and skill, and only today, when we’re conscious about what digital photography is able to do, we realize that the old saying “”the camera never lies” has always been a supreme fiction.

Photomontage is a technique that falls somewhere between collage, painting and photography to create images that abandon the assumed representational truth of photography without fully rejecting its aesthetic. There is a thin line between these technics, because they merge together in one form. It is still a photograph, but somehow combined with other art forms, to deepen the experience and add meaning, the artist could simply not express with just one medium. The picture captured by the camera was only the starting point for the whole image creation.  We often forget about the major purpose of photography, which is to show the emotion. By changing, framing and installing, we’re trying to show what made us happy, sad, amusing, angry, humble; trying to present the inner self. All in all, it’s always a subjective representation of reality, because it’s how the photographer perceives the surrounding world and what message he wants to send out.

One of the major differences between manipulation in the darkroom and manipulation with Photoshop is time and physical effort — the click of a mouse vs. exposure and developing, not to mention the mixing of chemicals and wasted sheets of photographic paper. Which is to say that there was a certain amount of craft and patience one had to possess in the darkroom that is much different than using a computer, where changes can just be undone. Treatments are the same – dodging, burning, masking etc. – but time and effort put in – incomparable. Firstly, because during “editing” of the photograph in the darkroom, we don’t see the changes made straight away – it needs to go through chemical baths to see the final effect, and very often has to be redone. Setting up darkroom is very time-consuming process, and needs much more skill and knowledge than the digital edit. But when we get to look at the final masterpiece print – it’s all worth the effort. 

Ela Furyk