Analog Retouching - The toolbar of 1966

Here's what they had to work with in 1966: an airbrush. A real airbrush made out of machined brass and plated with chrome. Just like Photoshop, it was a beautiful tool that, in the hands of a dedicated idiot, could do some real damage.
This was an article in Life magazine about some new Truman Capote novel about a murdered farmer in Kansas. The murder actually happened, and here's the mangled newspaper photo to prove it. The picture was reprinted in the Life article about the novel. I can't tell if the photographic pummeling was done by a Life staffer (unlikely, as Life was a national publication that probably had decent artists in-house) or an artists working at the local Kansas paper that ran the original story. I'm guessing it was the latter.

There's a site I visit daily called Photoshop Disasters. They post unbelievable photo molestations found on the web and in print, out in the real world. PSD pretty much has  made it their mission to call out terrible artists who have no business doing art. Some may call it mean, but I think that people who have no business sticking their nose into Photoshop shouldn't stick their nose into Photoshop.

The digital revolution, like so very many technologies, has brought the tools of production within easy reach of nearly everybody. Who should have the tools of production within easy reach? Something less than almost everybody, if results count for anything. Back in '66, there were more excuses for bad retouching. The local Kansas paper had a small talent pool to draw from. The picture may have needed to go to press really quickly, allowing very little time to do the retouch. Mostly, though, I think skill with the tool can be blamed. I have an airbrush, and they  are hard to control. Granted, I didn't concentrate daily on improving my skill like a career airbrush guy would. Still, getting the feel of a tool like a dual-action airbrush is something that takes years to get decent at, to say nothing of mastery. At least in the digital realm, there's CTRL+Z to help you get the hang of it.

The moral of the story is, the digital revolution has brought the tools of shitty art within easy reach of nearly everybody.


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