In the baby years of Facebook and while i was developing my online ‘persona’, I figured out that I could make zits disappear at the click of a button and no one would be the wiser. I had overlooked the minor issue of now being significantly less attractive in person, but I was ecstatic nonetheless. At the age of fourteen, I thought I was a photo retouch genius. Turns out I was greatly mistaken.
Retouch photography is technique whereby the photographer manipulates their image in order to change or perfect elements, as well as bringing different images together creatively. Contrary to what one might think, this is not a technique that only came about in the age of digital photography; pictures have been manipulated by hand for centuries. The digitisation of photography, and editing software such as Photoshop have simply broadened the horizons for perfection and imagination in photography. Retouching and manipulation are used in almost all sectors of professional photography, with the most obvious being beauty and fashion. And trust me; they can do a hell of a lot more than cover up a few pimples.
South African photographer and retoucher, Graham Bartholomew, is one of these mysterious people I refer to. He can make the average beautiful, and the beautiful flawless if he so chooses. I bet tweenage me would have killed for those skills of manipulation. However, he also uses retouching in other, more artistic ways. It is a skill that is being exploited brilliantly overseas especially, both for advertising and private work.
Leo Caillard is a French retouch photographer of considerable repute. He uses his well-honed skills primarily in the world of advertising, to take the limitations of original photographs to the next level. Many transnational corporations have hired him for advertising campaigns, and when looking at his work it is easy to understand why.
There is, however, a certain man who holds a very dear place in my heart. I have found myself coming back to his work again and again, and quite ironically decorating my Facebook wall with its sheer epicness. Erik Johansson is a retouch artist and photographer from Sweden. I have very little to say about him except that his art is magnificent and unbelievable. Erik says that “I don’t capture moments, I capture ideas. To me photography is just a way to collect material to realize the ideas in my mind”. It is hard to believe that every aspect of his images came from actual photographs that have been immaculately fused together. If you’d like to understand the amount of work that goes into creating art like this, check out his blog post on Set Them Free. It is hard to fathom for those of us whose photographic patience don’t extend much further than well-angled selfies. But if that doesn’t impress you, at least take a look at his spectacular body of work to understand why I’m totally obsessed.