My friend unveiled her family portrait at a neighborhood party. In the photograph, she, her husband and their five beautiful children — teenagers and young adults — were bathed in a glow of filtered sunlight as they casually stood in a courtyard. They looked so happy to be there together.
There were oohs and ahs all around, but this is what we were thinking. What did she have to promise — or threaten — to get everyone together at the same time — and smiling, too! Before any of us was bold enough or rude enough to ask her, my friend confessed. The daughter on the left had thrown a snit about the photo appointment and had shown up too late. She was later photo-shopped seamlessly into the photo.
No kidding? So this family had warts, too. Then we marveled at the photograph. The tardy daughter blended in so well with the rest of the family. The same lighting, the same shadows, the same stance, the same size — everything in the same proportion. I’ll never trust a family portrait again, although I should have been wise to this long ago. A recent New York Times article discusses this phenomenon in this article. Here’s the link: I Was There. Just Ask Photoshop.
Humans have been doctoring reality since the days when Cro Magnon man drew out-sized bison on the cave wall to brag about his hunting prowess. Artists throughout history have been fooling the eye in “trompe-l’oeil,” making you think something is real when it isn’t. One of the first movies was of men rocketing to the moon, not that anyone was fooled.
Equally difficult is photographing things as they are. The camera lens distorts. Neither film nor digital can capture reality the way the eye can. The eye is more sensitive to color and can see more hues than the camera can capture. I’ll write more about this later. In the meantime, don’t be fooled