Manual Photoshop Manual v1.0
Columbia GSAPP, 2018
Research project


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Abstract

While relatively new to the long history of technical representation, image editing software has, over the last three decades, managed to establish itself as an inextricable part of our contemporary processes of architectural production. Post-production is by-and-large no longer an optional activity for architectural practitioners: having been crystallized and corporatized in the form of a one-stop (Photo)shop, graphic software is now deemed an irrefutably essential, even elementary skill for gainful employment in today’s creative sector. Scarcely an image leaves the design office these days without the Midas touch of Adobe Photoshop. It seems increasingly unlikely that architectural practice as we know it can ever exist apart from the Adobe corporation. But then, why would we want to?

For many of us, Photoshop has become a reliable companion-for-life, seeing reflected in its interactive blank canvas a metaphysical extension of ourselves. This ubiquitous proprietary software has gained an extraordinary industry cult status around the world, and is seen by both professionals and amateurs alike to be an essential toolkit with the benign sensibility of a neutral platform. Within its comfortingly familiar, do-it-all workspace, the limits of productivity, output quality and ultimate creative success appears to rest not with Adobe’s parameters for global commodification, but rather with one’s own skill and imagination.

Somewhere between the manual photo-editing practices and retouching manuals from the early 20th century, and our present-day digital Photoshop practices centered around Adobe as a benevolent founding authority, lies the quiet (r)evolution of a global corporate power whose active—yet surreptitious—expansion of techno-political management systems, consumer reliance programs and interface construction of machinic assemblages (to use Hardt and Negri’s term), warrants deeper examination.