Monday 20 February 2017

You Can Never Trust A Photo!

“Photoshop is not a verb – it is a noun.
It is a means to an end, not the end itself.”
- Vincent Versace, American Photographer

Late each spring, Toronto comes alive with a celebration of photography: the annual Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival. Brilliant, exhausting, provocative, inspiring, infuriating, and back to brilliant. It’s a marquee event on my calendar.

One of the highlights last year was “Cutline: The Photography Archives of The Globe and Mail”. Located in The Globe and Mail’s old press hall on Front Street West, the exhibit featured a wide selection of images from The Globe’s photo archives. It marked the end of an era: the building was scheduled for demolition, and The Globe’s photo archives were being donated to the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. Read more about the exhibit here.

Looking at these photos was mesmerizing, but what astounded me most about them – most recorded long before digital photography and tools such as Photoshop came along – was the amount of manual (occasionally ham-fisted) changes that were made to the photos. One photo in particular, the 1956 “Paper rolls in the press room” (see above link) showed two young people looking up at huge rolls of newsprint in The Globe’s press room. Except…the figures of the two young people had been cut from another photo and glued onto the photo of the newsprint rolls. The photo that was printed in The Globe certainly looked like those two youngsters were standing in the press room, but, no, it was a fake photo. An innocent variation on fake news, I guess.

My point is this: when I hear people moaning away about how Photoshop has ruined photography and made it impossible to ‘trust’ a photo anymore, I laugh and say that you’ve NEVER been able to trust a photo! Ever since the invention of photography, photos have been altered to suit various agendas. The Soviets were masters of it in the Cold War. And check out the story of the famous Cottingley Fairies in the 1920s here.

Which brings me to the Photoshop workshop I took on Saturday at the Spark Box Studio (link) near Picton. Organized by the Baxter Arts Centre in Bloomfield (link) and the Baxter Studio School (link), the course was an excellent overview of this incredibly powerful photo editing program. Kyle, our instructor, certainly knew his stuff and helped me boost my editing skills.

I’ve been using Photoshop seriously for about eighteen months. Here’s an early example of my work. The first photo shows the arrival of the annual Canadian Pacific Holiday train in Belleville in November, 2015.

Next is a photo I recorded about five minutes before the train arrived.

Finally, here’s the combined image, showing the train heading towards the unwise boy who is not paying attention to the oncoming train…except it’s a fake.

The arrival of our basset hound, Edna, in late November, 2015, provided me with a great opportunity to build my Photoshop skills. Here’s a selection of the images I created for Facebook featuring Edna travelling the globe…and beyond. Some of the editing is crude, but gradually my skills have improved.

I hope you enjoy these images, but I’m pretty sure you can’t trust them!


  1. Yet for all her travels, and the many important people with whom she associates, Edna is still a such a gentle, unassuming soul.

    1. Yes, I expect Edna's unassuming manners will open many doors for her. She knows more people in the neighbourhood than I do!