The Computer Age Of Digital Retouching

National Geographic moved one of the pyramids of Giza to suit their cover design. Popular Science put an airplane from one photo onto the background of another photo on one of their covers and then bragged about how they did it inside the magazine. In a book of photographs of France, the photographer removed unsightly telephone poles from the picture of a Basque shepherd (see back cover). The Whole Earth Review, in questionable taste, appealed to mass credulity with a completely phony “photograph” of flying saucers on its cover.

One of the major manufacturers of the electronic retouching equipment, Scitex, stated in its 1983 Annual Report, “Publications produced on Scitex’s systems range from leading magazines and journals to high-quality fashion catalogs, the annual reports of Fortune 500 companies, national ad campaign materials, and glossy promotional brochures. Scitex systems are found in almost every country in the industrialized world .”

Nothing particularly sinister or ill-intentioned is going on here. Publications are using Scitex-type technology for a lot of unquestioned benefits–more rapid and exact page layout, for example, and higher-quality photo reproduction, and rapid transmitting of entire issues of graphics and text to simultaneous remote printers, greatly shortening the lead time to print of Time and USA Today, among others. The problem arises in the day-to-day detailed temptation to “improve” the images.

“Kick up that blue a little more.” “Let’s see the whole thing with more contrast. More still. Can you mute the sky a bit?” “Uh-oh, brown eyes, blue blouse. Try the blouse in green. No, darker.” “Can we get rid of that Pepsi can? Thank you.” “It’s great except for that guy with the weird look behind them. Could he go away please?” “You don’t like that guy, how about this guy instead?”

It’s yet another case of a new technical capability forcing the re-sorting out of a set of moral and ethical choices. Nuclear technology forced new decisions about what’s right and wrong in war and energy. Medical technology is forcing new decisions about what’s right and wrong in birth and death and parenthood. Digital retouching, though not yet a very public issue, is in the thick of how we will think about communication and “truth” and editorial responsibility –the broadcast fabric of civilization.

~ excerpt from Brand, Stewart, Kevin Kelly, and Jay Kinney. “Digital retouching: the end of photography as evidence of anything.” Whole Earth Review 47 (1985): 42+


Just as computers can digitally retouch photos, so too can computers retouch your bank accounts.  This is what hackers will do to you if you’re not careful and you don’t secure your items with lock and key – of a virtual sort.  You have to do things like get malware protection – a great tool is Spyhunter 4 which is an incredibly effective tool against spyware and malware.  You can also ensure that you don’t venture into “bad” internet neighborhoods.  This is a great way to ensure that you’ll always be on top of things.

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