Airbrushed Clark Gable image among early hand re-touched photographs going on show

Before the dawn of Photoshop it wasn't as easy to keep Hollywood looking perfect

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

In the days before airbrushing allowed us to easily smooth our wrinkles, perk up our bottoms and improve the definition of our eyebrows, great pains would be taken to hand retouch images.

Clark Gable might not have looked quite so devastatingly handsome in the above photograph were it not for the fact that the contours of his nose, eyes and lips had been sharpened up.

The background of the image – a promotional photo for Metro Goldwin Mayer –has been re-coloured with a grey and black base and the wax in his hair has been exaggerated with a grey film.


Annotations showing previous usage have been erased with a marker pen and even the shape of his shirt collar and jacket lapel have been softened.

This image is among a cache of press images dating from 1910 set to go on show in Paris to mark the practise of hand retouching that died with the era of Photoshop and digital photography.

Photographs were cropped and painted upon, unwanted details hidden and additions made.

Among them is Humphrey Bogart in 1949 whose cigarette was deemed inappropriate even then and was covered over with grey paint – the curls of smoke it emitted also erased.

_Bogart - 1949_ Tirage argentique vintage retouche¦ü a¦Ç la main, 20 x 25 cm - Pie¦Çce unique - Courtesy ARGENTIC.jpeg
Humphrey Bogart, 1949, Tirage argentique

It proves even some of Hollywood’s most beautiful faces, including Ava Gardner and Ginger Rogers, benefitted from the application of a touch of gouache and grey acrylic.

And it wasn't just Hollywood stars, with Fidel Castro and Japan's Hirohito (Emperor Showa) feeling the benefits of an airbrush.

La Fabrique Des Icones, the Paris exhibition of hand-retouched Hollywood photos 1910-1970, opens on 3 April at the Galerie Argentic,