First World War photography exhibition brings together the personal with the propaganda
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With Photoshop becoming a common photography tool, it’s not surprising that many war images appearing in today’s media are different from the originals captured by photographers. But the practice of altering photos goes back almost to photography’s origins.
In the new photo exhibit DISPATCH: War Photographs in Print, 1854—2008, visitors are taken on a journey through war photography history and are able to see how photographs have been manipulated during different time periods.
“The idea is to remind everyone that the photograph is a representation,” says curator Thierry Gervais. “We should look at photos closer to better understand what is conveyed through images and the different layers that have been masked in the photographs.”
He says that readers of newspapers and magazines think of photos as windows to the world, but they don’t see the changes that have been made from the original photo. “Someone took the photograph and another person used it in the press, which means they created something.”
Gervais spent a great deal of time going through the archive of a weekly newspaper that published photos a decade before the First World War. Out of the thousands of images he reviewed, he says around 95 per cent were retouched.
While the exhibit looks in depth at the alterations in press photos, Gervais isn’t attempting to criticize those changes. “I’m not a big fan of talking about propaganda and manipulations,” he says. “I think that all of the images are creations or constructions.”
The exhibit includes glimpses of Second World War and Vietnam War photography, travelling through the years up to 2008. Included in the collection are photos from Canadian photojournalist Louie Palu.
Visitors can view the exhibit at the Ryerson Image Centre in Toronto until Dec. 7.
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