Gloria Swanson by Edward Steichen,1924

I found this interesting passage today, written by Edward Steichen for Camera Work in 1903:

It is rather amusing, this tendency of the wise to regard a print which has been locally manipulated as irrational photography – this tendency which finds an esthetic tone of expression in the word faked. A MANIPULATED print may be not a photograph.

The personal intervention between the action of the light and the print itself may be a blemish on the purity of photography. But, whether this intervention consists merely of marking, shading and tinting in a direct print, or of stippling, painting and scratching on the negative, or of using glycerine, brush and mop on a print, faking has set in, and the results must always depend upon the photographer, upon his personality, his technical ability and his feeling.

BUT long before this stage of conscious manipulation has been begun, faking has already set in. In the very beginning, when the operator controls and regulates his time of exposure, when in dark-room the developer is mixed for detail, breadth, flatness or contrast, faking has been resorted to. In fact, every photograph is a fake from start to finish, a purely impersonal, unmanipulated photograph being practically impossible. When all is said, it still remains entirely a matter of degree and ability.-

Edward Steichen – Camera Work 1, 1903. [cited in: Alfred Stieglitz “Camera Work (The Complete Illustrations 1903 – 1917)”, Benedikt Taschen Verlag GmbH, Köln, 1997, p. 107]

I thought it so interesting that over 100 years ago, people were discussing the conscience manipulation of photographs and whether or not the photograph was “real” or not. We could certainly transplant that conversation to today in regards to iPhones, Instagram and Photoshop.

I suppose this conversation will never get old.