Petapixel recently published a piece on Soviet image doctoring, obviously prior to Photoshop. Early efforts, it says, were based on scratching and repainting negatives. Well, they may have been, but the infamous work done on the removal of Yezhov is praised as neat. With this in mind, I am wondering how modern tools would do by comparison.
I unleashed my limited post-processing skills on Photoshop, Serif’s Affinity and the Gimp. Here are the results.
In Photoshop I tried the lasso tool and context sensitive replacing. This yielded a ghostly outline of Yezhov,
… but with a bit of healing and phatching, this could be removed:
Affinity made it easy to select and delete comrade Yezhov:
… but quite a bit of manual inpainting was required to fill in the empty shape:
The closest we have to a socialist photo editor is, of course the Gimp. Using the scissors select tool and the G’Mic inpainting option again leave a ghostly shape to Stalin’s left:
As with the other programmes, manual inpainting is needed. Unlike in Affinity, there is no preview component to the heal and clone stamps, however, so attempts at reconstructing the wall by the river were far less successful:
Of course, the results are limited by my ability as much as by the packages used. Out of the three packages, the Gimp would probably have been least likely to keep me out of the Gulag if Stalin had given me a retouching job. That said, I don’t have a clear favourite.
Photoshop and Affinity both seem to perform well compared to the original soviet effort –they even preserve some of the reflections in the water. But then, the uniform wave pattern of the hand edited image may well give less of a hint that something is missing in the first place.