Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop, at the Met

black and white photo of empire state building and zeppelin as manipulated photography at Met Museum NYC

As soon as photography was invented, it seems that photographers began manipulating their images. 'Faking It', one of the newest shows from the Metropolitan Museum of Art's, isn't about exposing charlatans, nor does it get into whether or not famous shots were staged. Instead it offers a lively and thoughtful appreciation of ways various artists altered their images in post production. The manipulated photography spans virtually the entire photographic age beginning in 1840's thru the early 1990's before the proliferation of Photoshop in the mid to late 90's and beyond. There's a lot to see here at the Met's 'Faking It' (and a lot to read; the notes are key to your full enjoyment of the exhibition), none of it "real". 

An onlooker viewing a vintage black & white photo on display at The Met in NYC

Manipulating Images Before Photoshop

This show reveals that nothing is ever really new. Today's digital editing and manipulating is no different than what photographers have been doing since the very beginning only they worked more laboriously in darkrooms. Some of the photographs in 'Faking It' have historical significance, and were deliberately altered to deceive. A good example is a sitting portrait of Stalin and Lenin. The two revolutionaries/dictators are hand-painted in a way to make them look more vital, but ironically left them looking like the sleaziest, most Botox-ed men in Hollywood. Several other of the shots in the show were manipulated to amuse and/or sell things, which is no surprise that advertisers have always been at the forefront of the craft. 

A manipulated photo of Lenin & Stalin on display at The Met in NYC

A Different Kind of Black and White Photography Show

We spent about a half an hour at the Met's 'Faking It' exhibition and though some it feels a little tired, there were more than enough gems among the more the 200 images on display to keep us interested. The more we read about the shots, the more engaged we were by the generally not-terribly "artistic" pieces. 'Faking It' is the sort of art museum show that's really more about history, and the context of the work, rather than the aesthedics of the piece itself. Faking It makes for a nice counterpart to the vast Regarding Warhol show, which we loved. If you live near the museum, it easy to pop in for one exhibition, without ever feeling like you didn't get your money's worth. 

black and white manipulated photo of man's face superimposed on tentacle shadow cast over crowd at Met Museum NYC

Don't miss 'Faking It' at the Met

'Faking It' will be on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through January 27, 2013. The Met is open Tuesday through Thursday, and Sunday, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. The museum is located on Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street. As always, the price of admission to the Met is "suggested." For more information about Faking It, visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  

Visitors to the Met Museum NYC view black and white photography at the Met Museum NYC

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