When it comes to photo manipulation, my greatest experience comes from using photo editing apps on my iPhone like VSCO , Aviary, or Instagram. I consider myself pretty proficient at adding the perfect filters to a photo, using the tools to make slight changes to create an atmospheric effect. Of course, the predecessor to these instant photo manipulation apps is Photoshop. Photoshop makes it possible to edit photographs or scans to enhance the original, or alter the image to suit the purposes of the institution. Even with the proliferation of photo-manipulation apps like the ones I just mentioned, Photoshop remains relevant because of the sophisticated options for alteration available to its users.
Using Photoshop for the practice of public history may look a little different than traditional uses for the program. Instead of distorting an original image to alter the subject, it is better to use the program in public history work to enhance the image, showcasing the best qualities of the picture in order to portray a historical narrative. For a class assignment, we were asked to take pictures of artifacts, documents, or photos that would ultimately be used to create a digital exhibit for the institution that houses them. Ultimately, we would tinker with the images in Photoshop to upload to an exhibit later.
For the assignment I visited the Women & Leadership Archives to take photographs of various poetry books from the Connie Kiosse papers. Connie Kiosse was an original founder of the Feminist Voice Newspaper, an author, as well as an educator. Her papers
illustrate the feelings of radical feminist groups from the 1970s as they were depicted in independently published books and periodicals. Although my group members and I ultimately decided on a different topic for our project, the images I took could easily be improved using Photoshop software. Firstly, I would use a cropping tool (as shown in the image to the left) to draw the viewer’s eye to the subject of the photo without other distractions, like the surface I used to photograph the poetry books on. Then, I would use a paintbrush or inking tool to emphasize the lines of the artwork so the cover art is articulated more. The cover images from the original poetry books are faded with age and a bit blurry from the zoom feature on my phone’s camera.
The more damaged of the two covers, Child of Myself, needs more attention with a paintbrush tool to distinguish the original line art from the smudging that has occurred over the years. However, I would not use an eraser to remove the water spotting at the top. Using Photoshop to remove the watermarks would diminish the original character of the document. When using photo manipulation software in public history work, it is more important to preserve the character of the original document than to make it visually appealing. I look forward to becoming more proficient with Photoshop so that I can heighten the future experience of the public I reach through digital media.