The last month or so has not being kind to the artists formerly known as photoshop jockeys. Rarely a day goes by now without some example of a celebrity photo, with quirkily misshapen body parts being shared gleefully around the net, and bad Photoshopping has become a daily joke.
Has image manipulation become over-used, a compulsory fix-me-up in high-end advertising and, increasingly, in editorial/portrait imagery? Has the art of image manipulation, quite simply, jumped the shark? Can we take it seriously any more, even when it’s done well?
Here at Image Source, our research unit ISM (Image Source Monitor), see the signs in image sales of a desire for more simple photography. Is this beginning of the end of image manipulation as a kind of default in the creative process? Whether it will become visually off-trend, it’s clear that for the moment, clients will be more wary of using this kind of work.
In the meantime here is our celebration of some Photoshop treasures, re-touching gems, examples of smart ideas executed with fine photography married with great image manipulation. Please send us through some of your favorites.
1. Image Software-Shock
There is a whole school of Image Software-Shock, especially in the PSAs and charity ads. This ad warning against using phones when driving is horrible, partly because it is a good idea partly because of the painterly feel of the blood. The 3D-effect blood-splatter frozen in mid-air mirroring the moment in time, spilling out of the phone, connects with the pit of your stomach.
Advertising Agency: Mudra Group, India
2. Blurring Boundaries
The homeless are largely invisible to mainstream society and this award-winning ad for French outreach organization Samusocial highlights their plight. The image captures the psychology of someone gradually sinking into the streets. Publicis Conseil called it “Asphaltization”, and the photography and retouching pictures the sad demise of human beings into the street as a disappearance into greyness.
Publicis Conseil, France
Art Director: Alexandra Offe
Photographer: Marc Paeps
Another award-winner, this ad for Maglite torches promised to let you “see the dark side.” The series of images shone a light on the seamier side of life, simply bleaches out the color. Is it the kind of thing you’d want to see with your torch, maybe not, but the image, drained of color under the harsh ‘torchlight” gives a striking impression of the product’s power.
Art Director: Vasan Wangpaitoon/Komsan Wattanavanitchakorn/Nikrom Kulkosa
Photographer: Anuchai Sricharunputong/Nok Pipatungkul
Lego has a recent history of award-winning advertising with suitably playful imagery, not least Jung Von Matt’s recreation of Charles C. Ebbets’ famous image of construction workers lunching on a crossbeam on the Rockefeller Center’s RCA building (the Ebbets photo is a popular image to play with in advertising). This series by Ogilvy and Mather, Santiago, captures the idea of the childlike view of the world only privy to little people.
Ogilvy and Mather, Santiago
Art Director: Sergio Iacobelli/Sebastian Alvarado
Photographer: Juab Carlos Sotello
5. Mad Design-Scientists
Playstation have built their visual branding around distorted reality and futurism. Back in the mid-1990s two scientists at M.I.T. grew an ear-shaped cartilage on its back. The resulting photo caused controversy, raising fears of genetically-modified animals and humans. This execution suggests with simple image manipulation, the ‘mouse’ of the techno-age. Gaming ads are the work of the designer as mad-scientist.
Photographer: Clive Stewart
6. Photoshop Illusion
A favorite among image manipulators, Maurits Cornelis Escher was an illustrator obsessed with mathematics who worked with woodcuts and lithographs to create infinite loops. In these print ads the Audi A6 hugs the road so tight/has uber-satnav, that can hold the road even when the highway engineers have gone a bit Escher.
Photographer: Christian Stoll
Image Manipulator: Gary Meade
7. Playing with Scale
Photoshop can be the cure for the irritable grouch that lurks inside, especially good at playing with scale. Take this campaign for Weru soundproof windows, where hellish-sounding motorbikes are shrunk to size. Like the motorbikes, this simple idea got a lot of mileage across a range of different executions.
Art Director: Kay Luebke
Photographer: Ralph Baiker
Sholz & Friends, Berlin
8. Playing with time
Winston Churchill, as Dave Trott interestingly pointed out in a counterintuitive piece on great leaders, was kicked out of office twice and drank copious amounts of whiskey and champagne. Perhaps it’s more shocking seeing Winston Churchill ironing his own trousers. This Clio-award-winning ad by DDB New Zealand nails the message that The History Channel gives viewers the essential. In some ways it’s far too thought-provoking an image, I now want to see the series in which Churchill declares war on domestic chaos.
DDB New Zealand
The ads for Harvey Nichols upmarket department store in London’s Knightsbridge has turned shopping into something luscious, colourful and attractively strange. It’s shopper’s surrealism. Not your go-to kind of image for retail you would think. The metaphor in this (moths and light) isn’t so subtle, but the impact is about the overrall effect. Shopping in Harvey Nichols is visually exotic.
Art Directors: Emer Stamp_
Photographer: Dimitri Daniloff
10. Doctor Photoshop
For a number of years TBWA Paris became synonymous with a series of hypnotic, queasy, startling Playstation ads that positioned the brand perfectly and cleaned up at awards ceremonies. There’s many examples of image manipulation you can choose from but this one from 2003, Rebirth, which won a Grand Prix at Cannes is as much a triumph of delicate retouching as much as it is wincingly grotesque. It’s the sheen and sweat on the body of the woman giving birth that really frames up the spectacle of the head of the grown man emerging. Advertising’s own Alien moment (shot by Dmitri Daniloff again).
Art Director: Jorge Carreno
Photographer: Dimitri Daniloff