Seeing Our Greatest President In Almost Living Color

Time magazine commissioned an artist to colorize a few classic images from the National Archive of our 16th President. Swedish artist Sanna Dullaway used Photoshop first to clean up any blemishes on Lincoln’s image and then to add realistic color. The effect is hypnotic and engrossing–this extraordinary leader seems suddenly…tangible.

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, Olson

What’s particularly interesting is that Sanna is twenty two.  She’s been at this for less than two years, getting her start by posting her colorized version Malcolm Browne’s heartbreaking burning monk image from the Vietnam War: an image she found on Rage Against The Machine’s debut album.  That piece went viral, as have many others since.

But what’s really interesting is that you can commission her as well.  As her website reads:  “Using state-of-the-art technology and artistic talent, I will turn your black and white memories into vivid colour. Since each photo is unique and have a great emotional value it would be a perfect gift to a family member or friend.”

Unfortunately, that was before last week.  Once the Time story broke, jobs poured in.  As she puts it on a website update on pricing: “I’m afraid I do not have the time to colourize private photos for the time being – I am currently too busy with commercial projects. Please check back again in a couple of weeks!”

She clearly knows how the web works. Supply and demand and all that.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

Found on Flickr: The Subversive Wit of TrustoCorp

My friend Jeff Berg was surfing images on Flickr when he came across this gem:

Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson, Minneapolis, Advertising, Design

This is the work of TrustoCorp–an organization shrouded in mystery but extremely adept at Photoshop and high-end tagging.  Neither of us had ever heard of them before Jeff happened upon their photostream, but a quick Google search showed they have everything from a simple website that provides a slideshow tour of their postings around the island of Manhattan, to a Facebook page and a Twitter feed.

According to their bio on Flickr, “TrustoCorp is a New York based artist (or artists) dedicated to highlighting the hypocrisy and hilarity of human behavior through sarcasm and satire. TrustoCorp targets areas in the public domain typically reserved for messages of trust and authority and subverts them with messages of mayhem and absurdity hijacked from the visual style of our authorities.

Hey, it’s a Friday so try to find a few minutes to poke around their provocative work.  It will make you laugh and make you mad, perhaps even at the same time.  Artists…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson


Do You Recognize This Doctor With His Shirt On?

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OLSONOn Sunday, I flew into Harrisburg with my older daughter to visit my parents for a few days. Sitting in the very last row of the AA Embraer 190, I noticed two things.

First, nobody shuts the damned bathroom door when they finish. Seriously, no one? Really?

And second, Dr. Jeffry “I Swear I’m Not Photoshopped” Life has a new photo in the back of the American Way magazine.

You know Dr. Life… If you’ve been bored on any flight during the past five years, you’ve seen him. He’s that bald, bespectacled older guy who stands shirtless, his thumb hooked saucily in his jeans pocket as he shows off a jarringly youthful body builder’s chest in ads for something called Cenegenics.

In the new photo, he sports a black wrestling singlet as he puts on a sweet gun show, his arms cut and massive, his face still as unassuming as one of Santa’s cousins.

Maybe the doctor did find the fountain of youth… Maybe human growth hormone and testosterone injections can lead to super-fit aging… And maybe you can take the word of a heavily-promoted Las Vegas-based physician/entrepeneur who claims his image hasn’t been digitally altered and that his last name really is “Life.”

But that is kinda asking a lot.


By Dennis “My Bracket Is Now Entirely Useless” Ryan, CCO, OLSON

Exhibit A: The Power of Visual Branding

PhotoShop courtesy of Buzzfeed

Without his mustache, he’d still be a mass-murdering, psycho-racist, but he’d be so much less…Fuhrer.

Another totally-unrelated random thought from this past weekend: if you don’t believe we lose valuable things in the ever-increasing, pell-mell pace of modern life, than why did you miss that lost Daylight Savings hour so much Sunday?  Hmm…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79 — where today, we welcome back Monica Klasa–YEAH!

Smiling? With Her Cholesterol?

According to an article and post from Time this past weekend, a University of Palerno pathological anatomy professor (or UPPAP, as I refer to those kinds of eggheads) believes La Gioconda looks the way she does due to high cholesterol.  Specifically he cites two examples: xanthelasma, or an accumulation of cholesterol just beneath the skin, around her left eye, along with what looks like a fatty-tissue tumor on her right hand.

Aside from proving that Da Vinci took a hyper-accurate ‘warts and all’ approach to beauty (Leonardo would have HATED Photoshop), these types of theories prove little.  And there’s been an unending steam of them.  Scientists have subjected the painting to 3-D laser scanning, looking for hidden figures.  In 2006, researchers theorized her enigmatic bearing stemmed from being pregnant.  Around the same time, Dutch emotion-recognition software rated her expression as 83% happy, but also 9% disgusted, 6% fearful and 2% angry.  A Japanese forensics expert claimed she would have a low voice, given her skeletal structure.  And sooner or later, most everyone notices that she is singularly absent of facial hair–no eyelashes, no eyebrows.

So maybe all these theories and speculation do prove something: the enduring power of the Mona Lisa’s story.  The fact is, we’re talking about a 21″ x 30″ portrait painted just over five hundred years ago on a piece of poplar.  More importantly, even after five centuries we’re still finding new things to say about it.  This painting is an exceptional example of sustainable story built on mystery, beauty, and intrigue.

There’s a lesson for marketers and their brands here: great stories take on lives of their own.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Fair Warning: Blogger Not Nearly As Fabulous As This Image Suggests

Despite being recently overturned, the Chicago City Council’s well-intentioned but clueless ban on foie gras means making snide comments about other well-intentioned yet clueless lawmakers qualifies me a stone-thrower in a glass house.  Still, in a soft news story I find charmingly silly, fifty members of the French parliament want warning labels on airbrushed photographs in an effort to curb a practice that their chief proponent contends leads to eating disorders among young women.  Mme. Valerie Boyer authored a government report on anorexia and obesity and has been quoted saying “we want to combat the stereotypical image that all women are young and slim.”

Image Above Is Not The Blogger

Image Above Is Not The Blogger

Good luck with that Val.  And while you’re busy legislating that society push water uphill, perhaps you can insure brunettes, redheads and even the follically-challenged enjoy an amount of fun commensurate to blondes, who chronically over-index on fun.  Licensing handguns may be beyond our political grasp, but perhaps we can license Photoshop owners.  And we haven’t even begun to talk about full-motion video retouching, but if you’ve seen any hip-hop video in the past five years, you’ve (not) seen that at work.  And yes, I’m talking to you Lil Kim.

That’s the thing about glamour and beauty and the basic currency of the image business; it’s relative and it’s heartless.  Woman under 5’8″?  Sorry.  Soft-chinned man?  Sorry.  Forehead big enough to be a fivehead?  Sorry.  However, like so many high-fashion Steve Austin‘s, models can be radically enhanced, and so guess what that means?  Both they, and the advertiser, want them enhanced.  At the risk of sounding overly callous and jaded, models are chosen solely for how their faces hold light, not their thinking or dancing or position on nuclear policy.  As Paulina Poriskova rather famously replied when asked how she achieved her sexy look, “It’s simple, just three steps; lick your lips, part your lips, think of nothing.”

Eating disorders are a serious problem, but responding to it with lightweight, clueless legislation destined for failure is the equivalent of slapping a Band-Aid on a chest wound.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

On Transparency, Authenticity, and Tramp Stamps

bloggySo the new Sports Illustrated features a photo spread of open wheel racer/cheesy hussy Danica Patrick.  That in itself, is not a story.  After all, this is the same press-hungry Indy Driver who acquiesced to the post-adolescent idiocy of the past few years of godawful Go Daddy commercials. No, this story springs from the routine photoshopping that the magazine did to Ms. Patrick’s photos.  Again, not a real story since almost any attractive person you see in a magazine has been photoshopped to have whiter eyes, smoother skin and a more flattering figure.

Danica however, had her lower back tattoo removed.  And apparently without her knowing. The editorial staff at SI determined that ink on her sacroiliac would either offend or disinterest their readership and so they removed the design altogether.

I won’t bother arguing whether this kind of photoshopped revisionism is a good or a bad thing.  Certainly if I were modeling, I’d like every possible visual enhancing technique brought to bear and I would thank the good Lord that I had the fortune to be born in this, the digital age.  However, what I do take umbrage with is that the twentieth century’s most gorgeous and powerful example of automotive power–the Shelby AC Cobra–serves as a mere backdrop for this crass cultural footnote.

Look Sports Illustrated–you want sexy?  Lose the cheesecake altogether and just show that car…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79