A Yearbook from 1967

This weekend I visited my dad, and with me I brought his college yearbook which somehow ended up in my hands. The several inch thick book is filled with black and white photos only. The page layout is very artistic — each page or spread has a theme — for example, some focus on motion, others on light and dark. I was amused to realize a few of the limitations encountered by not having Photoshop for photomanipulation, and more impressed by how problems were solved without using a computer and image software!

For example, on the left side of one page is a photo of a football player with the numbers on his jersey reversed. On the opposite page a football player has the numbers on his helmet reversed. The photos were laid out so that the people faced into the spine of the book, which is good design, but at the expense of realism. It would have been easy to reverse the numbers with Photoshop. On another page, the exposure is very low, so the people are cloaked in dark shadows. However, they were laid out alternating with brighter photos of the same subject matter, so that you can guess more easily the content of the darker photos are, and so the darker photos have a mysterious but still decipherable quality.

The film quality throughout the book is sometimes grainy or slightly blurry, but the overall effect is artistic, elegant, and consistent. It proves that no matter what technical tools we have available, what makes a photograph or design pleasing is the photographer and the designer.

Photomanipulation has been around since before 1860, when, for example, one of the most popular portraits of Abraham Lincoln shows Lincoln’s head placed onto John Calhoun’s body! Before computers, photo manipulation was achieved by retouching with ink, paint, double-exposure, and piecing photos or negatives together in the darkroom. It wasn’t until 1972 that SuperPaint, the ancestor of all modern paint programs, was released. I’m glad to have all of the extra tools available today for digital photography and photo and color correction software!