How do you play Photoshop?

This week, we looked into the extremely popular world of image manipulation. It goes without saying that there is a mass saturation and a growing awareness of the capabilities of photo editing software to the point where the term “photoshopping” is a widely understood and used concept. As such, we began to work on developing our skills in the Adobe Photoshop software to discover the many ways in which photographs can be manipulated to create new meanings, trick the eye or simply become more visually appealing.It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that I have had plenty of experience using photoshop before and have worked on many a project that require some of the tools available in the software. However, up until this point, I’d never taken the time to just think “oooh look at that button, I wonder what it does…. let’s find out!”.

Photoshop, if you’ve never really used it, is amass with hundreds of unique tools that range in complexity. During my time using Photoshop, this array of buttons, actions and symbols scared me; I was in constant fear that my work would completely crumble if I accidentally pressed the wrong button. Ultimately, this is due to Photoshop having always been a vocational tool for me that was used mostly in the design stages of building websites and so any wrong turn meant loosing time and money on projects. Therefore, I never got the chance to simply lift the restraints and just “play”. This week, I wanted to do exactly this – escape the fears of “getting it wrong” and just give it all a try.Therefore, I opened photoshop and created utter nonsense.

Creating Utter Nonsense

Firstly, I created a lady sunbathing on an inflatable lilo in a bowl of milk… because well, why not? The idea for this came from a photo series that I found that showed plastic toys placed in unusual places. The one inspirational photo in particular was of a hippo enjoying plodding around in a bowl of milk, as if it was a mud pit. I wanted to achieve the same feeling of uncanny, of ‘matter out of place’ that is simultaneously amusing and unnerving (Douglas, 2003, p. 50).

How do you play Photoshop?

Secondly, I decided to go further with making surreal situations and decided to go back to the photo series and work with an animal. Therefore, I decided on a Crocodile. Not just any crocodile, but a gigantic and monstrous crocodile jumping out of a puddle! It’s too big for that puddle, how did it get in there? The tiny onlooking tourists can’t quite believe their eyes on this one.

How do you play Photoshop?

Finally, I thought I’d see just how far an image could go in Photoshop. What happens if I keep adding new layers? What happens if I add filter over filter, mask over mask, image over image? The answer is a complete mess. A beautiful mess. Starting with an image of a naked woman with the internal organs and vein system painted on her skin and another of an underground tube train, I began to play. The end result is, I believe, a great piece of digital artwork.

How do you play Photoshop?

What have we learnt from this exercise? Photoshop is fun. What else have a I learnt? There is a huge range of possible outcomes that can arise, even when there is a similar starting point. For example, all three images above started with a realistic photo and, through various techniques of editing, reached very contrasting results (perhaps the first two are similar, but the last is incredibly different). I’ve learnt that you don’t necessarily have to know what you’re creating when you begin to play. For example, the beauty of the last image is held in the very fact that it has no tenuous link to an idea that could have been formulated before – it is the end result of a process, not the end result of an idea. Finally, I learn that there is no ned to be scared to pull apart software to discover what it can actually do, some of the best work can be created out of the very errors caused by not knowing what you’re doing.

PS – Here is a photo of George’s Halloween costume that we photoshopped to look even more scary. 

How do you play Photoshop?

Reference: M. Douglas, Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (Routledge, 2003) – this book looks at the feeling of uncanny created by the taboo of matter out of place.

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