Believing Is Seeing: Faked Photos Before The Internet

 

“The painter constructs, the photographer discloses” – Susan Sontag

 

Man on Rooftop with Eleven Men in Formation on His Shoulders (Unidentified American artist, ca. 1930)

Man on Rooftop with Eleven Men in Formation on His Shoulders (Unidentified American artist, ca. 1930)

 

Do we believe what we see in photography and video? We should view images with one eye on the creator: the propagandist who places the child’s toy atop the rubble of war, or a skull in an arid plain; the miracle-cure-weight-loss-selling hustler who shoots the unhappy fat slumped from the front and the joyful slimmed inhaling from the side; the editor behind the highlights packages on the evening news picking the running order and where to crop the pictures?

Metropolitan Museum of Art curator Mia Fineman writes (via):

Over the past twenty years, photography has undergone a dramatic transformation. Mechanical cameras and silver-based film have been replaced by electronic image sensors and microchips; instead of shuffling through piles of glossy prints, we stare at the glowing screens of laptops, tablets, and mobile phones; negative enlargers and chemical darkrooms have given way to personal computers and image-processing software. Digital cameras and applications such as Photoshop have create, look at, and think about photographs. Among the most profound cultural effects of these new technologies has been a heightened awareness of the malleability of the photographic image and a corresponding loss of faith in photography as an accurate, trustworthy means of representing the visual world. As viewers, we have become increasingly savvy, even habitually skeptical, about photography’s claims to truth.

It’s easy to fake a photo. But before the internet the fakers had to work hard to be creative:

 

Sueño No. 1: Articulos eléctricos para el hogar / Dream No. 1: Electrical Appliances for the Home (Grete Stern, 1948)

Sueño No. 1: Articulos eléctricos para el hogar / Dream No. 1: Electrical Appliances for the Home (Grete Stern, 1948)

UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 08:  In the Summer of 1917, 15-year-old Elsie 'Iris' Wright (1901-1988) and her 10-year-old cousin Frances 'Alice' Griffiths (1907-1986) claimed to have photographed fairies in a beck behind Elsie's home in Cottingley, near Bradford. Although Elsie later admitted the photographs were fakes, Frances was more reticent. To her dying day she claimed that the girls had seen fairies, and that at least one of the photographs was genuine.  (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)

1917: 15-year-old Elsie ‘Iris’ Wright (1901-1988) and her 10-year-old cousin Frances ‘Alice’ Griffiths found fairies at Cottingley, near Bradford.

Hearst Over the People (Barbara Morgan, 1939)

Hearst Over the People (Barbara Morgan, 1939)

W.L. Thorndyke, editor of the Loveland Reporter, came up with an idea to help Swan promote his spuds at an 1894 street fair. Thorndyke's idea was to create a hoax photograph of Swan showing off a truly massive potato — one as large as a boulder. He suggested Swan could pass around copies of the photo as a tongue-in-cheek advertisement. To make the photo, Swan and Thorndyke enlisted the services of photographer Adam H. Talbot. Talbot took a photo of a potato and enlarged it to mammoth size. He then cut out a wooden board the size and shape of this enlarged image and he attached the photograph to the board. Finally, he posed Swan holding this giant faux-potato on his shoulder.

Room with Eye (1930) – Maurice Tabard

 

Erroll Morris:

Inevitably, we see a photograph based on our beliefs – what we believe about the photographer’s intentions, our political beliefs, and the context in which the photograph appears. Think of all the ways the meaning of a photograph can change. The photographer takes a picture; a journalist writes a caption; the picture appears in an article; it is cropped or appears with other images (which skew the meaning); or it appears in a publication with known (or suspected) political sympathies; often photographs that seemingly express a point of view that we don’t like are seen as propaganda. And photographs that seemingly express a point of view that we do like are seen as journalism. People rarely find fault with photographs that accord with their own beliefs.

 

W.L. Thorndyke, editor of the Loveland Reporter, came up with an idea to help Swan promote his spuds at an 1894 street fair. Thorndyke's idea was to create a hoax photograph of Swan showing off a truly massive potato — one as large as a boulder. He suggested Swan could pass around copies of the photo as a tongue-in-cheek advertisement. To make the photo, Swan and Thorndyke enlisted the services of photographer Adam H. Talbot. Talbot took a photo of a potato and enlarged it to mammoth size. He then cut out a wooden board the size and shape of this enlarged image and he attached the photograph to the board. Finally, he posed Swan holding this giant faux-potato on his shoulder.

 

The Museum of Hoxes explains the above photo:

W.L. Thorndyke, editor of the Loveland Reporter, came up with an idea to help Swan promote his spuds at an 1894 street fair. Thorndyke’s idea was to create a hoax photograph of Swan showing off a truly massive potato — one as large as a boulder. He suggested Swan could pass around copies of the photo as a tongue-in-cheek advertisement.

To make the photo, Swan and Thorndyke enlisted the services of photographer Adam H. Talbot. Talbot took a photo of a potato and enlarged it to mammoth size. He then cut out a wooden board the size and shape of this enlarged image and he attached the photograph to the board. Finally, he posed Swan holding this giant faux-potato on his shoulder.

A meme was born (see more here).

 

Lots more like this here

 

Postcard features agricultural trick photography (by Martin Photography Company of Oxford, Kansas) of a farmer as he saws an enormous ear of corn, circa 1910 . (Photo by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images)

Postcard features agricultural trick photography (by Martin Photography Company of Oxford, Kansas) of a farmer as he saws an enormous ear of corn, circa 1910 . (Photo by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images)

 

Big crops mean big pests:

 

big hopper

 

The Ghost in the Stereoscope: Founded in 1854, the London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company was a major publisher of stereographs-cards with two nearly identical photographs mounted side by side that can be viewed through a binocular device to create an illusion of depth. The firm’s output was colossal; their 1858 catalogue listed more than one hundred thousand views. While the majority of these were landscapes or architectural views, there was also a thriving market for staged historical, sentimental, or comic tableaux, which were often hand-colored to enhance their dramatic impact. Among the most popular themes were courtship, marriage, unrequited love, bereavement, children sleeping or praying, fairy tales, fortune telling, and supernatural scenes involving ghosts or spirits.

The Ghost in the Stereoscope:

 

Founded in 1854, the London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company was a major publisher of stereographs-cards with two nearly identical photographs mounted side by side that can be viewed through a binocular device to create an illusion of depth. The firm’s output was colossal; their 1858 catalogue listed more than one hundred thousand views. While the majority of these were landscapes or architectural views, there was also a thriving market for staged historical, sentimental, or comic tableaux, which were often hand-colored to enhance their dramatic impact. Among the most popular themes were courtship, marriage, unrequited love, bereavement, children sleeping or praying, fairy tales, fortune telling, and supernatural scenes involving ghosts or spirits.

 

Two-Headed Man (Unidentified American artist, ca. 1930)

Two-Headed Man (Unidentified American artist, ca. 1930)

A photograph of Will Thomas, taken by William Hope (1863-1933). A man’s face appears in a haze of drapery on the right of the photograph. Thomas, a medium from Wales, did not recognise the superimposed image. Thomas has signed the bottom of the photograph, ‘Sincerely Yours Will Thomas’ – perhaps this indicates a friendship with Hope. Hope’s spirit album photographs use double and even triple exposure techniques to render the appearance of ghostly apparitions around the sitter. Hope founded the spiritualist society known as the Crewe Circle and his work was popular after World War One when many bereaved people were desperate to find evidence of loved ones living beyond the grave. Although his deception was publicly exposed in 1922, he continued to practice.

A photograph of Will Thomas, taken by William Hope (1863-1933). A man’s face appears in a haze of drapery on the right of the photograph. Thomas, a medium from Wales, did not recognise the superimposed image. Thomas has signed the bottom of the photograph, ‘Sincerely Yours Will Thomas’ – perhaps this indicates a friendship with Hope. Hope’s spirit album photographs use double and even triple exposure techniques to render the appearance of ghostly apparitions around the sitter. Hope founded the spiritualist society known as the Crewe Circle and his work was popular after World War One when many bereaved people were desperate to find evidence of loved ones living beyond the grave. Although his deception was publicly exposed in 1922, he continued to practice. More here.

Man Juggling His Own Head (Unidentified French artist, Published by Allain de Torbéchet et Cie. ca. 1880)

Man Juggling His Own Head (Unidentified French artist, Published by Allain de Torbéchet et Cie. ca. 1880)

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec as Artist and Model (Maurice Guibert, ca. 1900)

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec as Artist and Model (Maurice Guibert, ca. 1900)

Lenin and Stalin in Gorki in 1922 (Unidentified Russian artist, 1949)

Lenin and Stalin in Gorki in 1922 (Unidentified Russian artist, 1949)

Fading Away (Henry Peach Robinson, 1858)

Fading Away (Henry Peach Robinson, 1858)

Aberdeen Portraits No. 1 (George Washington Wilson, 1857)

Aberdeen Portraits No. 1 (George Washington Wilson, 1857)

The Vision (Orpheus Scene) (F. Holland Day, 1907)

The Vision (Orpheus Scene) (F. Holland Day, 1907)

There's not a lot of info on where this photo comes from. It's listed on the website of the French National Library as having been created in 1911 by the "Agence Rol." photo agency. For 1911, it's a pretty good example of photo fakery. Also included in the same series is "Cat peers through binoculars" and "cat looks through a telescope."

1911 by the “Agence Rol.” photo agency.

Two months before the election, on Sep 8, 1912, the New York Tribune ran a set of humorous pictures under the headline "The Race For The White House," showing the three main presidential candidates astride the animals associated with their parties. William Howard Taft was shown riding an elephant (for the Republican party). Woodrow Wilson sat on a donkey (for the Democratic party). And Roosevelt rode a moose (for the Bull Moose party). All three images were fake. They had been created by the photographic firm Underwood and Underwood.

 

Via

Two months before the election, on Sep 8, 1912, the New York Tribune ran a set of humorous pictures under the headline “The Race For The White House,” showing the three main presidential candidates astride the animals associated with their parties.

William Howard Taft was shown riding an elephant (for the Republican party). Woodrow Wilson sat on a donkey (for the Democratic party). And Roosevelt rode a moose (for the Bull Moose party).
All three images were fake. They had been created by the photographic firm Underwood and Underwood.

 

April Fool's Day edition of a German news magazine, the Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung. International News Photo had distributed the photo to its American subscribers without Identifying the photo as a joke. International News Photo Confused details of the Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung 's original article. In the original, It was not the force of Kocher's breath That Caused the rotor to turn. Instead, the pilot breathed normally into the box, triggering a chemical reaction did Extracted the carbon dioxide from his breath and used it to power a small motor. The factthat carbon dioxide is not very combustible and THUS would make a terrible fuel what part of the joke. International News Photo So misspelled the pilot's name. In the original it what Otfried Koycher, Which was a pun on the German word "wheeze" meaning to wheeze or gasp for breath.

April Fool’s Day edition of a German news magazine, the Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung. Man flies by the power of his breath.

A Powerful Collision (Unidentified German artist, 1914)

A Powerful Collision (Unidentified German artist, 1914)

Dirigible Docked on Empire State Building, New York (Unidentified American artist, 1930)

Dirigible Docked on Empire State Building, New York (Unidentified American artist, 1930)

Of the many fake photos of the Loch Ness monster, this is one of the first and by far the most famous. Taken in 1934 by British surgeon Colonel Robert Wilson, for many years it was considered the best proof that Nessie was indeed swimming in the murky waters. As it turned out, the monster in the photo was a toy submarine with a little sea-monster head — though even the admission of the plot has been called into question as a possible hoax.

The Loch Ness monster, as captured in 1934 by Colonel Robert Wilson