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Insights & Thoughts

This World War I Composite Photo Puts Many Modern ‘Shops’ To Shame

By Anthony Thurston on November 4th 2013

People tend to forget that image manipulation has been around for virtually the entirety of photographic history. Yes, that is right, long before Photoshop people did tings like composite images and other tricks that we now associate with Adobe’s flagship image editing software. No image that I have seen quite illustrates this point quite like this composite photo taken during WWI.


The photo is a composite of several shots by photographer Frank Hurley, who was Australia’s official wartime photographer. Hurley’s job as the wartime photographer was to capture the “truth” of war so that the people back home could see what was going on. The problem though, according to Hurley, was that a single frame from his large glass plate camera could not capture what war was really like.

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To remedy this Hurley combined several images to create the final image that you see. Its a practice used very often in today’s world of Photoshop, we even talk about it in our newborn photography workshop for heavens sake. The difference is that it took Hurley much longer to make these.

The final product though is something to marvel at really, the quality of this composite is superb. It’s better than many of the Photoshop composites that I have seen out there. Then again, it may also be helped my the fact that the quality of images from WWI is not what it is today. But all the same, very good work for something that had to be done manually by hand.

What are your thoughts? Share them in a comment below!

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Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Josh

    I still have Some wwI glass slideshow plates from my granddad

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  2. Kav

    Anywhere we can see the originals?

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  3. Vladimir Ladev

    Should be very interesting to see an article of the process of editing a composit manually.

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