The implications of this in terms of memory and autobiography are interesting. Of course, we've been retouching and enhancing photographs virtually as long as photographs have been around. Harry Farid at Dartmouth has a great site documenting this across history, citing as the earliest example an iconic photograph of President Lincoln created from the body of John Calhoun; General Ulysses Grant's photograph in front of troops in Virginia was actually composed of three separate images, and more recently Sarah Palin's head as been fixed atop a bikini-clad girl firing a machine gun. Milan Kundera's The Book Of Laughter And Forgetting opens with a description of a seminal photograph in Bohemia's history: Communist leader Klement Gottwald is standing on a balcony on a cold day in Prague before thousands of citizens when his comrade Clementis generously places his own fur hat atop Gottwald's head. A photo is snapped. Four years later, after Clementis is charged with treason and executed, the photograph that had circulated widely in books and posters and in the imaginations and memories of thousands is altered. Kundera:
The propaganda section immediately made [Clementis] vanish from history and, of course, from all photographs. Ever since, Gottwald has been alone on the balcony. Where Clementis stood, there is only the balcony. Where Clementis stood, there is only the bare palace wall. Nothing remains of Clementis but the fur hat on Gottwald's head.
When I was a kid at Saint Andrew the Apostle I dreaded school photo day, as did nearly everyone. On the morning of one photo day—I was 10, maybe 11—my kind-of-friend Rob T. invited me to go along on his newspaper route. Rob was a cool and daring guy, and I genuinely liked him and the prospect of the two of us hanging out was pretty great. It was a warm autumn day, and by the time we got back, minutes before the bell rang, I was a sweaty mess, panicked that on Photo Day my cursed curly hair would only look wilder, greasier, and stringier. I'd sacrificed vanity for friendship, and vanity won. Of course, the photo confirmed my worst fears. I recall this when I l see it, and how that simple morning was a suburban domino falling onto the next suburban domino. I might have jumped at the chance to utilize Windows7 software at the time—cutting out an awful me and pasting in a less-awful one—but what I have is the truth of that unexceptional moment: a kid smiling through self-absorption, trying to survive something trivial, now having moved on.
"3D Abstract Family In Green House" via Human 3D.com