Photoshop is inescapable. Nearly all the images we encounter in our daily lives—in ads, brochures, posters, and billboards—have passed through Photoshop’s turnstiles. “Brave New Panderers,” Constant Dullaart’s exhibition at xpo gallery in Paris, examines the impact of Photoshop and other ubiquitous technologies by focusing on the humanity within them, as well as the image that started it all.
The first-ever Photoshopped photograph, Dullaart’s Jennifer in Paradise—a wavy abstraction of a topless woman viewed from behind, seated on a beach—stretches across two gallery walls. The female pictured is Jennifer, the future wife of John Knoll, one of Photoshop’s founders; with his brother and co-founder Thomas Knoll, he chose this work as a pilot for demonstrating the program’s ability to morph an image—surely changing the initially intimate nature of the photograph.
Also on view are photographs appropriated from Thomas Knoll’s Facebook page: an eagle canted against blue sky and a tiger’s face amidst jungle fauna. Textured glass is placed over each photo to create an aqueous filter, mimicking similar filter functions in Photoshop. Analog lighting schemes modeled after the pulsing light of a computer are affixed to images of smoggy Shenzhen, China—Apple’s manufacturing hub overseas. Densely applying Photoshop’s “Heal” brush, images of the aftermath of Tokyo’s earthquake and the West Bank are transformed by Dullaart into beautiful washes of color gradient. The transformation of these images hints at the humanistic connotation of “Heal” and technology’s impotence in the realm of true human calamity.
By illuminating the human factor at the heart of technology, Dullaart is effectively slowing them down. It’s easy to let technology dazzle us and then root itself in daily existence without a second thought. We forget to consider the inherent life force within it—the fact that ubiquitous technologies like Photoshop, Google Search, and Apple products are ultimately human creations. “Like Google, Photoshop affects the way we look at something, as if we were all wearing the same glasses,” Dullaart once said. “I feel that these tools have become crucial subjects, just like the people who designed them—shadowy intermediaries between us and the machines whose decisions impact on our lives and our behavior.”
“Brave New Panderers” is on view at xpo gallery, Paris, Apr. 23rd–Jun. 20th, 2014.