Edition 2013

Raynal Pellicer Collection


This collection brings together more than a hundred press photos— mostly portraits of Hollywood celebrities—published between 1910 and 1970 by American dailies such as The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Boston Herald, The Denver Post, The Detroit News... Gelatin-silver prints retouched with gouache and ink, by brush and airbrush, bearing reframing marks, handwritten technical notes, and marks in soft lead pencil. Proofs that were corrected or sometimes altered by illustrators and traditional retouchers before publication. More than the events they document, these images testify to a craft and photographic process that have now disappeared. They also show that, contrary to a generally received idea, the retouching of press photographs was neither rare nor exclusive to the propaganda of totalitarian countries at the beginning of the 20th century, nor linked to the arrival of digital technology or software like Photoshop. Press photos have always been retouched before publication, if only for simple reframing purposes or to balance contrasts. Typical newspaper style guides imposed a layout in which photographs took up one or two columns. Most of the time, the photo’s background was blurred or removed to lighten the layout, covered over with a monochrome plane made of a thick layer of grey or black gouache. Sometimes undesirable characters were effaced and elements recreated. Humphrey Bogart’s cigarette disappeared, the gangster Jim Morton was given a jacket and tie, Marcel Marceau lost an arm (the height of paradox for a mime performer!)... Beyond being a mere correction linked to technical constraints, it was a matter of editors appropriating and modifying original images not made by them. When retouching escapes the photographer’s gaze, it raises the question of the intangibility of press photography and the taboo of retouching.

Raynal Pellicer, curator of the exhibition and author of a book about retouching photographs, Version originale, la photographie de presse retouchée (La Martinière, 2013).

Framing by Circad, Paris.
Exhibition venue: Atelier des Forges, Parc des Ateliers.
Framing by Circad, Paris.
Exhibition venue: Atelier des Forges, Parc des Ateliers.

  • Institutional partners

    • République Française
    • Région Provence Alpes Côté d'Azur
    • Département des Bouches du Rhône
    • Arles
    • Le Centre des monuments nationaux est heureux de soutenir les Rencontres de la Photographie d’Arles en accueillant des expositions dans l’abbaye de Montmajour
  • Main partners

    • Fondation LUMA
    • BMW
    • SNCF
    • Kering
  • Media partners

    • Arte
    • Lci
    • Konbini
    • Le Point
    • Madame Figaro
    • France Culture