Monday, March 14, 2011

The Quaint History of Retouching

David Malki of the fantastic comic Wondermark meditates on the history of retouching:
My own experience of professional retouchers has been most unsatisfactory. No matter how much I instruct them that all I want done is the removal of technical blemishes, they seem to think that unless they put a new skin on the sitter they have not earned their money. To me this is simply maddening, for I am simple enough to hold the opinion that the one thing in which photography excels is the rendering of texture, and that the man does not live who can come within a thousand miles of the camera in that respect. Now, the human skin is a wonderful bit of work, and the greatest painters spend a lifetime in a vain effort to be able merely to suggest it. So when I see a man priding himself on being a first-class retoucher, because in a few minutes he can simply annihilate the marvelous work of the lens, I feel he is so small mentally that I ought to consider him as nonexistent.

I think I have said enough to impress on the reader the idea that every stroke of the pencil on a negative is more apt to be productive of evil than good, and that the only legitimate occasion for retouching is to correct such technical defects as pin holes caused by dust or airbells, or to remove such natural blemishes as freckles, which are often invisible to the eye, but are rendered very distinct in the photograph, on account of photography being a defective art so far as the rendering of colors is concerned.

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