Faking It

Foreign Policy Blog

Kim Jong Il. Image source: Foreign Policy "Passport"

This week the reappearance of Kim Jong-Il in a group shot excited some controversy. Not in the august presence of the Beloved Leader, but by inconsistent shadows and details in the image.


Detail. Image source: Foreign Policy "Passport"

This example highlights aspects of concept and execution. I suspect the hapless Photoshop retoucher responsible for this may have ended his/her career on this one. Or, as others have suggested, maybe they were stuck with an elderly copy of Photoshop 2, which was layer-deficient until PS3 or so.

By definition, all photos of Kim Jong Il are faked in some way. This is in the intellectual DNA of North Korea in particular, but shared by all totalitarian states.

I was always intrigued by the photo textures of Communist leader-photos: Mao, Hoxha [Albania], Stalin, and all the Eastern European thugs in the ’50s thru the 80’s. And all this was old-school razor & airbrush fakery.

The most egregious Stalinist/Soviet examples are found in “The Commissar Vanishes”.

Lest anybody in the audience think that Western regimes are immune, guess again. My favorite anecdote involved a Spanish postmaster who had a forbidden gallery of Francisco Franco portraits taken down from the wall, and not returned to Madrid. All getting steadily older. He would contemplate them on occasion, and take solace that someday, Franco would die.*

*New Yorker article, mid-70s.

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