Project Five, The Manipulated Image – Composite


There is a tradition of manipulation in imagery that goes back as far as the beginning of photography. Hippolyte Bayard produced one of the first known photographs that used manipulation to tell a story. He created a staging of his own death as a response to a lack of credit associated with the invention of photography and his sense of injustice to the lack of recognition. The photograph, called, Self-portrait as a Drowned Man, shows Bayard apparently deceased though he continued to produce photographs for nearly 50 years. (Getty Museum)

The Victorians made use of the manipulation of imagery in order to satisfy their fascination with spirit photography. Professional photographers were able to make reasonable sums of money for blending negatives and double exposures to allow their customers to have prints of themselves with deceased relatives.

The Cottingley Fairies, 1917, was a photograph made famous in the press as it became a subject of much debate as to its ‘truth’. The longevity of the debate, which lasted until 1970, as to whether this image, apparently taken by two teenage girls, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, gives this image a place in photographic history. The ‘Midg‘ camera is cited in the Science and Media Museum as having been used for the first two Cottingley Fairy photographs. (Science and Media Museum).

Digital images and the software used to process and enhance digital images, similarly to some darkroom techniques, can also allow image manipulation, going beyond that of staging, to tell a story through the creating of something removed from the literal.

For this exercise I produced a composite image based upon the story of Lady Lucy of Wentworth Castle. The story is that Lady Lucy haunts the Avenue that has been named after her. It is said that she haunts the avenue in the gardens due to being forbidden to marry the man she loved due to a difference in status. More recently a press release has been made stating that Wentworth Castle Gardens soon have to be closed to the public.
The location has some meaning to me, it’s one of the first places I visited upon moving to Barnsley and Lady Lucy’s Walk struck me as an ideal background for a composite image.
Lady Lucy’s Walk

The ‘character’ was photographed indoors against a green screen, lighting with modified speed lights, the key light being above right and a low level fill used from the front. The portrait was cut from its background using colour key selection and refined manually. Colour cast caused by the reflection of the green background was removed.

The images were brought together with adjustments made in terms of brightness, saturation and curves to make for a more believable cohesion. Some shadow was added to the bottom left of the character.

As the image is to some degree based on a tradition of the ‘ghostly’ and centres around the story of Lady Lucy and also the contemporary story of Wentworth Castle’s closure it felt appropriate to add a quite visible texture that swirls through the avenue of trees, lessens part of Lady Lucy’s skirt to the left and cracks the ground behind her. An enhancement to the lighting of the top right of the photograph was added and final RGB curves adjustments were made and sharpening added.

The result is a non-realistic composite that tells a story and although more complex than some of my initial considerations that I made in my time management planning (Planning | Notes | Time Management Part 1 – Pages 3 & 4) , satisfies a personal project wish in addition to the coursework requirement.


Getty Museum [ – Last Accessed – 30/3/2017]

Science and Media Museum [ – Last Accessed 30/3/2017]