PBS Arts Takes a Look at How Photoshop is ‘Remixing The World’

It’s hard to fathom the effect that Photoshop and digital retouching has had on our world. Limitations placed on artists and photographers in particular have systematically been stripped away as terms like “‘shopped” made their way into our vernacular.

In this short video, PBS Arts examines that effect. From the artist, to the photographer, to the everyday citizen who has something to say, nobody has been left unaltered by Photoshop.


Giving the artist perspective, art director and illustrator Jeff Huang talks about the new and exciting canvas that Photoshop has given artists like him. Constantly fighting those who don’t understand the skill required on one side and those who see a piece of Photoshop art as somehow less artistic on the other, the Photoshop artist is still awaiting the recognition he’s due.

On the photography end we have Laurent Le Moing of Picturehouse NYC, who briefly explains the ins and outs of retouching, and makes the distinction between good retouching — that is, retouching that preserves the human element — and bad retouching that has led to a twisted understanding of beauty and perfection.


Perhaps most interesting, however, is the third section of the video on meme generation. Narrated by Don Caldwell of Know Your Meme, this section discusses how the ability to create and alter memes in Photoshop has changed the way we interact with and comment on our culture.


Caldwell mentions the Thumbs & Ammo meme as a statement about gun control, and the pepper spray cop as a statement about police brutality. It seems that our ability to alter images in Photoshop, be they obviously fake or otherwise, has allowed people to communicate their political and cultural views more effectively than words ever could.

Truth be told, there are probably many more examples of how Photoshop has affected us. In the past, we’ve shared the opinion that the prevalence of Photoshop has even changed our perception and understanding of reality. How else do you think Photoshop is “remixing the world?”

  • Mak Wa

    As quoted from the video: “10, 15 years ago I definitely wouldn’t have been able to create images like what i do today”.
    When I first used Photoshop in the mid 1990’s (when there was version 3
    and 4) I have seen images/illustrations comparable to his.
    So, what has changed in Photoshop so significantly in the last 15 years for him to say that? Maybe if he had said 20-25 years ago that might have been the case. Photoshop version 5 came out in 1998 (15 years ago), the original Photoshop was released in 1989 (24 years ago).

  • berksnapper

    Illustration in popular media now shows, to an even greater extent, the marketing man’s (or woman’s) idea of perfection. Young people get even more wound up about how their looks, style etc deviates from this ideal. Never mind, the pharmaceutical industry is making billions from supplying the drugs to alleviate everyone’s angst! Are you Photoshop re-touchers happy to be part of this?