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100-year-old Photoshop – traditional Brazilian painted photographs

April 24, 2013 No Comment

Before Photoshop and at a time when nobody could afford elaborate photo sessions, a few early 20th century artists  that lived in the Northeast of Brazil developed the art of painted portraits to give make black and white images more dramatic.

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These images belong to the Titus Riedl Collection and have been touring American galleries. Riedl is a German sociologist that works as a professor in Crato, in the Northeastern state of Ceará. Right now, the exposition is in Portland, Oregon, at the Blue Sky gallery, where you get to learn that:

“Family photos were enlarged and colored, conferring status on members of the family and portraying them much like icons or saints. Using oil washes and other techniques specific to the region, local artisans embellished clothing with pattern and color, smoothed wrinkles, added jewelry, and sometimes resurrected deceased relatives, illustrating the fantasies and desires of their customers.”

The professionals that specialized in this type of retouched photo – a species nearing extinction – were known as bonequeiros. They would travel around the country, visiting small towns, trying to convince families to pay for artistic versions of photos of deceased loved ones. Photoshop prevailed, but will never equal the level of poetry of this portraits.

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