Rubin Museum explores photo alterations of the past

Rajasahib of Dhrangadhara, the then ruler of a princely state in present day Gujarat (India), photographer and painter unknown ca 1930. Gelatin silver print and oil paint. (Nicosia Smith photo)

Rajasahib of Dhrangadhara, the then ruler of a princely state in present day Gujarat (India), photographer and painter unknown ca 1930. Gelatin silver print and oil paint. (Nicosia Smith photo)

For those of us who practice photo shop there is a sense of gratification when we finally get the image we desire.

So what if you were royal. What would those alterations be?

The Rubin Museum of Art in its Allegory and Illusion – Early Portrait Photography from South Asia, showcased a delectable example of early photo alterations.

Images from South Asia in the 1800’s, showed photos of Royals being retouch with color, silk and whatever else they desired, as a statement of their authority.

This is the Portrait of a Royal, from the Photo art Studio Rajkot ca. 1900-1930. Gelatin silver print, oil paint, silk cloth,velvet cloth, sequins and gold-colored wire were added to his image. (Nicosia Smith photo)

This is the Portrait of a Royal, from the Photo art Studio Rajkot ca. 1900-1930. Gelatin silver print, oil paint, silk cloth,velvet cloth, sequins and gold-colored wire were added to his image. (Nicosia Smith photo)

Now of course, the changes being made for the Royals were approved before hand, I would imagine.

This was done by either putting the additions on a portrait photo (as seen left) or using the photo as a model to paint a portrait and adding the enhancements (as seen below).

So a painter would then add for example color, sparkles, silk and gold. Power and stature played a big roll in what was added.

This, it seem was quite common during those days.

A portrait painter, image taken at the Rubin Museum. (Nicosia Smith photo)

A portrait painter, image taken at the Rubin Museum. (Nicosia Smith photo)

Allegory and Illusion explores early portrait photography from India, Nepal, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and Burma (Myanmar)  from the mid-nineteenth century to the mid twentieth century.While there are many images of Royals and high-ranking members of society, there are also images of the ordinary, whose portraits have no alterations.

This exhibition goes through February 10.

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