Mindful Manipulation

August 26th, 2015 – January 24th, 2016


Novelty postcard, How We Do Things At Oshawa, Ont.,c. 1920s, Oshawa Public Libraries.

In the age of digital photography and image editing software, the authenticity of photography is often questioned. When photography was invented it was thought to depict objective reality and absolute truth, but almost immediately photographers found ways to alter and manipulate images. Artists sought to establish photography as an art form by finding ways to stylize the results, while others discovered the possibilities of using the medium to deceive the public.

This exhibition focuses on the practice of photo manipulation within local history and the motivations behind it. Generally, reasons to tamper with an image were either aesthetic or deceptive. In the case of the photographs featured in this exhibition, some were altered for aesthetic expression, to add a family member who had either passed or lived far away, novelty items, or to encourage visitors to Oshawa by beautifying street views. There are also various examples of images that were altered using a variety of techniques, including multiple exposure, combination printing, photomontage, overpainting, and retouching on the negative or print.

Photography was one of history’s most impactful inventions; the medium continues to evolve and influence how we see the world. While some photographers today still choose to edit in the darkroom, more and more are embracing the digital age of editing software. Looking back on manipulated photography before the digital age shows that although the technical process has changed the motivations have not. This exhibition includes images from the Thomas Bouckley Collection, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery’s permanent art collection, the Whitby Archives, Oshawa Public Libraries and the Oshawa Community Museum and Archives.