Jennifer in paradise: the story of the first Photoshopped image
June 14, 2014
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From The Guardian
It hardly looks like an image that shook the world. But this photograph, taken in 1987 by John Knoll, could be as central to the modern visual vernacular as Eadweard Muybridge’s shots of galloping horses or the first use of perspective.
Its subject is Knoll’s then-girlfriend Jennifer, topless on the beach inBora Bora, gazing out at To’opua island. The young couple worked together at Industrial Light & Magic, Lucasfilm’s special-effects company, and were enjoying some well-earned R&R after working 70-hour weeks on the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Looking back, Jennifer says: “It was a truly magical time for us. My husband actually proposed to me later on in the day, probably just after that photo.” Little wonder that John would name the photo Jennifer in Paradise.
But the image was to become much more than a record of a perfect moment. At ILM, Knoll had encountered a cutting-edge piece of hardware known as the Pixar Image Computer, one of the first that could be used to manipulate images. “I thought it was amazing,” he says. “The fact that you could take an image from film, scan it in and turn it into digits and then manipulate those numbers and put it back out on to piece of film – it meant that there was literally no limit to what you could do to it in the middle.”
The Pixar machine cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and the image-processing software was so complex it required a specially trained operator. So Knoll was somewhat taken aback when he visited his brother Thomas, who was reading for a doctorate in computer vision at the University of Michigan, and discovered that he’d developed some similar software that could run on a much cheaper Macintosh Plus. Knoll began to chivvy his brother into pushing the application further. “It was really just a hobby at first,” he says, “but I kept asking him to add more features.” It is worth reading the full article and watching the video to see just how little has changed from the very first version, go here to do so