Online Exhibition

Retouching –
Image manipulation in photography

An Online Exhibition of the Photothek of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut

We all know how easily the digital images that surround us can be manipulated: the simplest smartphone has image-processing programs that allow anyone to correct, adapt, or alter a photograph with just a few clicks. Even among documentary (art-historical) photographs it is difficult to find images that have not been re-processed by the photographer or a photo lab. In any event, the changes made between the shot and the authorized print or the publication of a digital image are mostly hidden from the observer’s eyes.

This online exhibition is dedicated to processes of image manipulation and provides an insight into retouching practices in the photo lab. Starting from the history of retouching as a photographic process, the exhibition presents different techniques and shows the continuity in the development of analogue and digital photography which is often ignored. Processing – of negatives, positives, and digital photographs – plays an important role in the workflow of the Phototek’s digital laboratory while adhering to strict criteria in order to preserve the documentary character of the images.

With many photographic objects taken from the Phototek collection that were digitized for the first time specifically for this occasion, the exhibition leads us through a part of the history of retouching as a cultural technique. The aim is to increase awareness of the fact that even documentary photographs are always “constructed”. 

go to the online exhibition


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