Saturday, August 13, 2011

Single snapshot

The latest Internet photography fad to follow planking, owling, and leisure diving may elicit mild amusement or a groan. "Horsemaning" is staging a photo to make it appear that the subject is beheaded. The idea is traced to a post on BuzzFeed on Aug. 8, 2011, with the image above shown as a historic precedent. According to the story, which has now been picked up by the international media, this single snapshot is representative of a trend among photographers in the 1920s. I thought these earlier photos might be more blogworthy than their goofy contemporary counterparts, but my searches yielded - as you may have suspected - no evidence of such trend. I did find this photo from "around 1920" and this similar image taken "c. 1960s." The only supportive information I could come up with:
  • The Brownie camera had been introduced by Eastman Kodak in 1900, making photography available to, affordable by, and popular with amateurs. By the decade in question, millions were participating in the craze of "kodaking."
  • By the turn of the 20th c., the idea that the camera cannot lie became common. This seeming verisimilitude was put to use by advertisers, who replaced drawings with photographs of their products. The truism no doubt gave rise to many amateur attempts to prove it wrong, something professionals had been doing since the medium had been invented.
  • It was in 1920, when they were published with an article by Scottish writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), that the Cottingly Fairies photos came to the attention of a gullible public reluctant to believe the images could be faked.
Pardon me for overthinking the horsemaning craze...

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