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Faking photos

May 11, 2012
Languages of Colour book cover

Languages of Colour book cover

I’ve contributed a small piece to a forthcoming book to be published by Frogmore Press. Edited by Alexandra Loske, Languages of Colour consists of numerous poems and short essays on the theme of colour. It comes out on 31 May 2012.

I’m rather excited about this because although I’ve been published in a few places before, I can’t recall ever appearing in anything with an ISBN no. By virtue of my surname coming early in the alphabet, I even get to appear on the ISBN record for the book. This, amusingly, means there is now a record of me on Amazon. (Predictably however, it thinks I’m a different Kevin Bacon, although not that Kevin Bacon.)

Aside from the chance to get published in a reputable form, this book has presented me with an opportunity to explore a subject that has fascinated me for a few years: fakery in photography. Although most people have got used to the fact that Photoshop and other image editing software has dented the old cliche that the ‘camera never lies’, few realise that Photoshop merely revives a tradition that goes back to the earliest days of photography. I first became interested in this when researching a small collection of spirit photographs held by the Royal Pavilion and Museums. They are a fascinating collection, principally because they are strikingly inept examples of a very dubious practice. (If you’re interested in the full story behind these, I wrote about them for the Pavilion Review back in 2008, which can be downloaded for free.)

My piece for Languages of Colour is entitled ‘Blue Sky Thinking’, and is about the techniques employed by early photographers to compensate for the medium’s over-sensitivity to the colour blue. It is based on a single photograph of the Royal Pavilion.

Back when I was Curator of Photographs at the Royal Pavilion and Museums, I harboured the idea of holding an exhibition exploring the subject of photography and fakery. I never got round to it then, and having ceased to be a curator, I am unlikely to do so now. But I would love to go back to the idea one day, albeit in a different form. The phrase ‘colour mash up’ occasionally pops into my head, but I don’t quite know yet what that means…

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