Monday, April 27, 2009

Twice Told Tuesday - Retouching Photographs

Twice Told Tuesday features a photography related article reprinted
from old photography books, magazines, and newspapers.

What would Mr. Ryder have thought of the use of Photoshop? I believe he would have loved Janine Smith for being true to the image, but would have found Playboy's airbrushed models deceitful.


Retouching is deceitful, and I don't like it . . .

Cleveland lost the active efforts of her finest citizen when James F. Ryder, the photographer of countless faces, settled down last summer to the quiet of the retirement which he had earned by a busy life. There is scarcely a home in this part of the country where the name of Ryder is not known for the pictures he has made. Mr. Ryder sat in his study in his flat in the Esmond and talked to a reporter the other day about the things he has done and seen and the people he has photographed.

"Sometimes," he said, "I have been sorry that I taught retouching photographs to America. Still, if I had not done it, some one else would, and I would not have had the start of the rest of the country for a year, with all the advantage that meant.

"But retouching is deceitful, and I don't like it. Left alone, the camera will not misrepresent, but when a skillful retoucher takes the negative of the face of a woman who wants to be more beautiful than the good Lord intended, the result is not always the truth. The instantaneous dry plate in another left-handed photographic blessing.

It has made the whole world photographers and people are content now with snapshots which they and their friends make, and all there is for the photographer to do is to finish the plates for the amateur. If the amateur snap-shotter gets a picture that is funny or cute he is satisfied, and photographic art is left out of the question.

"How different it all is from the old times when people went to the photographer and had a daguerreotype taken and finished so that they could take it away with them. If they wanted more than one they sat for each picture they wanted and paid $5 or $10 for each one. With a boy to help me. I used to make as much money as the big galleries with a dozen employees do now.

The history of retouching? It is very simple. For a long time I had been taken by the beauty of some portraits that had appeared in a Philadelphia publication devoted to photography. I found that they all came from Germany, and that they were made from retouched negatives.

A man named Cyranus Hall, who had worked for me until he made money enough to go to Germany to study what he called nobler art, meaning painting, happened at this time to be in Munich, from where some of the finest of the retouched work came. I wrote him, asking him to send me a retoucher.

He did so, and soon after, the venture was so successful that I had him send me over two more. I was the first American to use the process, which is simply doctoring the negatives after they are taken and smoothing over any defects there may be in the faces of the persons photographed. And people came to me from all over the country.

Note: The most important and first real improvement to the portrait photographer after the advent of collodion was retouching of negatives, which method of finish came to this country from Germany in 1868.


Cleveland's Distinguished Veteran Of The Camera. The St. Louis and Canadian Photographer. 1900.


Both photographs used in article are from:
Ryder, James F. Voigtländer and I in Pursuit of Shadow Catching. Cleveland: The Imperial Press, 1902.


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