Early 1900s Photographers Used Instagram-Like Tricks to Fix Pics – Nerdist

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We’ve all experimented with the dark art that is editing selfies. Sometimes you’re just not having a great day and a few touch-ups makes that photo of your face really shine. Or, conversely, seem less greasy. But while it may seem like touching up photos is a new phenomenon, people were doing it back in the early 20th century. And, as the newly re-discovered 1909 tome, the Complete Self-Instructing Library of Practical Photography shows vividly, they weren’t half bad at it either!
Harold B. Lee Library/Internet Archive
DesignTAXI picked up the above and below images from the 20th century photography book. Reddit user “20toesdown” recently posted an image from the book to the subreddit “Instagram Reality.” It has since gone viral.
Harold B. Lee Library/Internet Archive
PetaPixel, which was the first outlet to pick up on the Reddit post, took a look through the Complete Self-Instructing Library. The photography site found that it’s essentially an instruction manual for making people look better in photographs. With featured topics including everything from how to blend in highlights and shadows to how to use etching knives to remove “objectionable” parts of photos.
Harold B. Lee Library/Internet Archive
“By the combination of etching and retouching—i.e. by the use of the knife and pencil—you etch and model, and with these two instruments you can make any alteration you desire on the negative,” the book states. The book notes that “highlights on the bones in the neck may be cut down and subdued” and that “crooked noses [can be] straightened, shadows accentuated, hair added, backgrounds altered, objectionable portion removed, figures taken from groups, etc.”
Harold B. Lee Library/Internet Archive
The images demonstrate the effectiveness of the editing techniques. Wrinkles on the woman’s neck in the image at the top, for example, have been removed for the final photograph. In the portrait below that, editors have made a woman’s “thick neck” thinner. Apparently early 20th century expert image editors could even “open” a person’s closed eyes. Just like this book has opened ours to how particular people have always been about pictures of themselves.
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