Image manipulation has been an integral aspect of photography since its inception, propelled by diverse motives such as artistic expression, commercial interests, and at times, political agendas. During the era of darkroom processing, photographers utilized a diverse array of techniques for image manipulation. This included selectively brightening specific areas and intensifying light exposure, as well as darkening particular regions. Before the widespread adoption of airbrushing, hand retouching was a prevalent practice, with photographers or specialized retouchers utilizing pencils, inks, and dyes to enhance or alter specific details within a photograph.

In vernacular photography, prior to the widespread use of color photography, amateur enthusiasts frequently engaged in the manual coloring of black-and-white prints, imparting a touch of realism to their images. Experimentation with cropping was common, allowing individuals to remove undesired elements and seamlessly integrate images into their narrative, often observed in family albums and scrapbooks. Additionally, handwritten annotations directly on photographs became a popular means of emphasizing details, sharing memories, and providing contextual information.

Promotional movie photos and stills, made for marketing purposes, frequently exhibit evident traces of manipulation, employing a spectrum of techniques. These techniques have evolved over time, ranging from the hand-painted posters of bygone eras to the sophisticated digital tools prevalent in contemporary filmmaking. During the Golden Age of Hollywood, the public image of stars was meticulously controlled by movie studios, with glamorous portraits of actors and actresses captured by studio photographers and often extensively retouched by hand to maintain a polished appearance. Composite images, amalgamating elements from different shots, became a pivotal tool for filmmakers to showcase multiple characters or highlight key scenes within a single promotional still.

Artists, throughout the history of photography, have continually pushed the boundaries of the medium, employing various techniques to create unique and imaginative works. Before the advent of digital technology and tools like Photoshop, artistic endeavors included techniques such as double exposure, photomontage, and traditional retouching, all aimed at evoking a sense of the subconscious and challenging conventional representations of reality.

Unidentified photographer, c. 1910s

Unidentified photographer, actress (?), c. 1930s

N.E.A., Famous model Andrea Mijinska at a fashion show in London, 1928.

Unidentified photographer, Paris, Boulevard Haussmann, Rue La Fayette,  1924

International News Photos, Chicago, Ill., 24 December 1934, Star Nova Herculis 1934. 

Warner Bros., Glenda Farrell, c. 1940s

Page from an anonymous photo album, 1920s

Collection artistique Prof A. C. Types napolitains, postally used in 1905

Unidentified photographer, silent film actress Beryl Halley, often referred to as the Venus of the Twentieth Century & Viennese painter Ernest Linnenkamp (1885–1956), 1926

Unidentified photographer, Dahlia, 1934

Unidentified photographer, pupils, class of 1924/25

Sascha/Wien Film,  Winnie Markus in ”Sommerliebe”, 1942.  Directed by Erich Engel. Script by Walter Supper and Hans Adler. - Manipulation caused  by light damage.

This was the last film for Walter Supper, who had been largely excluded from the German film industry since 1937 due to his marriage to a Jewish woman. In March 1943, Supper and his wife committed suicide.

Filmrevue, c. 1950s

Stift Dürnstein, Lower Austria;  hand-colored gelatin silver print, pencil,  around 1920

Émile Vignes, tree study, 1930s. Photo-montage.  – This appears to be a variation of Vignes’s work ”Gemmeur faisant de hautes entailles ”

Universal Pictures Company, 1952

Filmrevue, c. 1940s

Unidentified photographer, 1930s, skiers

Janos Hajú, fieldwork and cloud study, c. 1930s. Gelatin silver print/watercolor.

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