Spotlight: Dogs in Airbrush

Airbrushing was an early method of retouching and coloring photographs which can be traced back as far as the late 1800s. It is a unique process which creates a beautiful matte effect, causing images to look as though they are caught somewhere between photograph and painting. While the technology is still employed today, in the pre-Photoshop era airbrushing was a go-to method of altering and improving images.

At the National Archives, we do not alter, retouch, or manipulate the original records within our holdings. We preserve the materials that are sent to us by government agencies as invaluable historical records. We do, however, have some examples of airbrushed images in our holdings created by the agencies before transfer. For examples of airbrushing in the Still Picture Branch holdings, check out these images from RG 17-HD, the Bureau of Animal Industry!

Images depicting different stages in the airbrushing process:

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4 thoughts on “Spotlight: Dogs in Airbrush

    1. Isn’t it interesting? The airbrushing is added to/combined with photographic prints. In several of the images, the bulk of the airbrushing appears to be in the background. This causes that matte gray look and was possibly done to create contrast. In others, such as the Pointer (17-HD-1-S001) and the Bull Terrier (17-HD-C001), airbrushing strokes are clearly visible in the grass. In images like the Collie (17-HD-1-E002), fine airbrush markings can be identified in the dogs’ fur. I find it very cool. Also, I really like dogs. So it makes me happy to share these images; I’m glad you enjoy them as well!

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