Hist 697: Impasse with Photoshop

Oh Photoshop.

This section of the course will be my Achilles heel. I have opened Photoshop in the past and the result has been anxiety. There are so many ways to do so many different things – and I have very little understanding of what algorithms Photoshop is deploying. It is both exciting and disconcerting to push a button and have the software “optimize” an image for me.

The Lynda tutorials raised a number of questions for me. I am interested in using Photoshop for wire-framing designs and for the creation of graphics and the manipulation of images for the web. However, I was confused by the creation of buttons and animated gifs. It seems that much of this can be created using CSS3, although browser compatibility makes this a less reliable route to take. But the tutorial, while helpful, made an odd set of assumptions about knowledge of Photoshop. While the setting up the workspace was very helpful, I ran into trouble with using the particular tools – it would be helpful to go through the tools and to explain what each of them do. But perhaps I just need to spend time this week clicking on every button… yikes.

The color resources that were part of the assignment for today were helpful! To this point, I have been attempting to generate color schemes from my mind… an effort that has been only moderately successful. But the types of drawing from the colors within an image or using kuler to draw from already generated color schemes was very helpful. Also, the NonDesigners Photoshop book was helpful, or at least will be helpful when I’m working on the image project, and it will be fun to apply the tools to the images at hand.

Thinking more abstractly for a moment, Sheri and David made some thought provoking comments on their blogs about the ability to manipulate images, which Photoshop enables, and some of the ethical concerns that historians do, or should, consider. This appears to be the “hot topic” of the week and I wanted to add a small contribution. Perhaps it is helpful to think in terms of primary and secondary sources. In adjusting the images, adding color, fixing blemishes, we are creating a secondary source, a source that is an interpretation of the primary material. This seems particularly true in the case of adding colors or restoring missing sections of photographs. However, the creation of these secondary materials does not detract from or replace the primary material. In my mind, digitization should always supports, never replaces the physical object. When does this way, the original photograph remains the same and good scholarship requires returning to the primary material. Just as we already know not to rely on secondary material for quotes and we know to return to the primary material, historical research done with digital tools also must be aware of these limitations in secondary sources. (Geoff makes a similar point in his post – I agree, though it is interesting to consider how digital archives, though secondary, can be used as primary text, similar to scholarly edited editions.)

I did not make any changes to my type assignment yet! I will work on that again soon.


*While I have not directly commented, I am responding to Sheri, David, and Geoff in this post (see links above).