Image manipulation, being quite a wide title, i have decided to focus on one of my favourite photographers, Brassaï and his method of ‘image manipulation’ which he called; ‘transmutation’. In 1932 Brassaï started collecting images of Graffiti that he discovered all over Paris and catalogued these images for twenty years. In 1960 he published these images in a volume but these earliest publication to contain them was am article in Minotaure accompanied by an article written by Brassaï himself ( who happened to be an accomplished author as well as Photographer, Sculptor, Painter and Draughtsman) called ‘From cave wall to factory wall’.
Brassaï tracked how they changed over time, graffiti was an entirely abstract art form for which Brassaï was one of its largest advocates which inspired his good friend Picasso to say; “it was a brilliant idea to collect these images… These walls are as rich as the façade of any cathedral! Your book connects our art with the art of these primitive peoples…” .
Inspired by the graffiti he had discovered over the past two decades, Brassaï started to experiment with his own style ‘transmutation’ in 1934/35. He engraved onto exposed photographic plates, the result being a rather abstract surrealist artwork. ” I went at these plates mechanically, like a sculptor. It was strange to see how the nudes would change under the influence of this tool which wore away at their substance. A weird obsession took hold of me: I wanted to change these forms into those of a musical instrument: first woman, then guitar, then mandolin-woman. I was subject to a series of almost unconscious reactions, which smashed the photograph to smithereens…”