Time traveling cigarette snatchers rewrite history

Discuss

105 Responses to “Time traveling cigarette snatchers rewrite history”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I think you guys are over-thinking this. It’s not about a government agenda.

    Maybe the cigarettes were removed because people in general have a negative reaction to seeing smoking, more so now than decades ago when the photographs were taken.

    When you’re creating an image (or a sculpture, or a story), authenticity should be balanced against artistic license when engineering the product that’s most likely to evoke the kind of reaction you want. It’s almost like translation: You don’t just dump some literal and raw content into a new context, you tweak it to take the new context into effect so that in the end it has about the same impact that it did in the original context.

    If you want to create an image of someone, an image that people will react positively to, then it’s not necessarily unreasonable to do things like lighten up the bags under their eyes, remove extra-messy hairs or shirt wrinkles, maybe even make the neck and waist a little thinner and the jaw a little stronger, etc. Sure, it’s non-trivial (and sometimes impossible) to make images that are tweaked this way look natural, but again, being accurate might not trump the other objectives of generating the image, and that’s fine. Whenever you create something, there are wrestling objectives that you have to compromise.

    When I see someone smoking (in the spaces I have access to, i.e. not in the privacy of their homes) I think “What an asshole”. Smoking is so stupid and inconsiderate and selfish and rude, it immediately lowers my image of a person when I find out they smoke. Now, “smokers are assholes” is far more true now than it was before, say, 1990 or thereabouts, so I know that I can’t be harshly judgmental this way to smokers from history… but the urge to judge is still there. I appreciate the people who edited these images and spared me the need to fight the part of my brain that says “This person is smoking; They must be an inconsiderate asshole”.

    In my living room I have a collage of old pictures of my parents. One of them showed my mom holding a cigarette, and I photoshopped it out. What can I say, I think it made her look like an inconsiderate jerk, and I thought I would try to spare her memory of such judgment. There’s more to life than accuracy.

    • peterbruells says:

      If you want to create an image of someone, an image that people will react positively to, then it’s not necessarily unreasonable to do things like lighten up the bags under their eyes, remove extra-messy hairs or shirt wrinkles, maybe even make the neck and waist a little thinner and the jaw a little stronger, etc.

      Like the skin whiter.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Getting mighty crowded in the Memory Hole these days.

  3. kpkpkp says:

    Say it with me… “But what about the children?”

  4. Hools Verne says:

    I don’t get the idea that if you don’t whitewash history away, you are somehow tacitly approving of it.

  5. penguinchris says:

    I just want to chime in to agree with those saying that these are bad illustrations. I think that’s the real problem here, not the removal of the cigarettes (though I appreciate the various arguments fully). The Pollack one is OK, certainly serviceable for a stamp (though in my mind, stamps should have great artwork), but the Robert Johnson is just awful. I’d expect to see something like that in the dumpster outside of the art building at a small liberal arts college at the end of the semester.

    The R. Crumb illustration is wonderful, and perfectly captures – and exaggerates *just so* – the essence of what made the original photo iconic in the first place, which is the guy’s character.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I must say that I would consider the actual artistic works of these two people to be of greater value to posterity than evidence of their drug addictions.

    I look foward with interest to twenty or so years in the future, when the next generation of dead artists is likely to be commemorated on stamps, as to whether similar complaints will be made about depictions of stars of the `sixties and `seventies if they fail to show those people popping pills, snorting coke or shooting up, or whatever their own personal addictions happened to be.

  7. Anonymous says:

    “Who cares if we muck up their expressions just as long as people don’t see them smoking. The lack of a cigarette is more important than whatshisnames face.”

  8. Anonymous says:

    Tdawwg/mdh: interesting discussion! I see a substantial difference between printing a JP artwork in BW and editing out prominent components from iconic photographs (i.e. other artworks) as a means (with empirically unverified effectiveness) to social-political goals. The photo shows what it shows and is iconic. If cigarette’s (and, evidently, ears, eyes and lips) in certain iconic (art) photographies are deemed problematic then the stamp people should look for some other image to use for the stamp.

    All that has, I think, strong intuitive force. Now, WHY is it so important to not bluntly edit iconic photos? What is wrong with doing so (if anything)? That is harder to explain. I think one reason is that iconic photos (iconic anything, really) are important nodes in our collective memory. Shared reference points that we can secure conversations and thoughts about history to. That is a fragile yet important thing.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I’m just impressed that there’s a Robert Johnson stamp, even if I’m not impressed with the illustration itself.

  10. MrWednesday says:

    Imagine them doing this to John Constantine.

  11. blueelm says:

    I dunno. I came back to this. Why I’m so freaking fascinated with ugly stamps I don’t know, but I think the main problem is that something really has been lost in the images with the cigarettes taken out of them.

    Kind of like airbrushing a cocktail out of Ernest Hemingway’s hands.

    Especially since they used iconic images. Especially, in the case of Johnson, where the cigarette is a major focus of the picture.

    “I look foward with interest to twenty or so years in the future, when the next generation of dead artists is likely to be commemorated on stamps, as to whether similar complaints will be made about depictions of stars of the `sixties and `seventies if they fail to show those people popping pills, snorting coke or shooting up, or whatever their own personal addictions happened to be.”

    Well if they use an iconic image of the drug, yeah. For instanced if they decide to use the famous image of Sid Vicious shooting up heroin, but take out the needle so it looks like he’s just scratching his arm in a weird way… yeah.

    One would wonder why they didn’t just…. you know… use another image.

  12. freetard says:

    Ghost From The Grand Banks was somewhat prescient, perhaps- the massive anti-smoking movement we are in now had barely started in 1990 when Clarke wrote it. Hell, you could barely find restaurants with separate smoking sections in 1990! More prescient I think were Clarke’s theories about using software to do the heavy lifting in video processing, rather than employing hordes of cheap labourers to rotoscope every frame.

    He did miss the boat (so to speak) in that story where the Titanic was concerned, not even guessing she was broken in half.

    Still a very good story, and the place I got my first exposure to the Mandelbrot Set.

  13. krispyD says:

    Alas, the smoker, the last American minority… This is just dumb.

  14. Avram / Moderator says:

    Do you think it was the same time travelers who changed the angle at which Johnson was holding his guitar, and the positions of his fingers? And the wall behind him?

    • mdh says:

      artistic license, for sure, but not because there is a social move afoot to change guitar angles or reposition Pollacks paintings so they’re more directly behind him.

      As Pollack worked, he smoked, at least that day. And as Johnson played, he smoked, at least that day.

  15. monkey says:

    i’m much too creeped out by robert johnson’s pouty-pink lipgloss to even think about this missing cigarette.

  16. mdh says:

    John Smith may be unemployed, but at least his brother Winston has work.

    • billstewart says:

      Winston tastes good like a cigarette should?

      BurntHombre@22, to me it looks more like he’s about to snap his fingers than holding a cigarette, but you could be right. It’s not as good as the photoshop job on Abbey Road which showed all four Beatles even though Sir Paul was dead…

  17. Godfree says:

    When you see any formal portrait of Walt Disney holding a pencil, that’s a pencil airbrushed over a cigarette.

    • Brainspore says:

      When you see any formal portrait of Walt Disney holding a pencil, that’s a pencil airbrushed over a cigarette.

      So you’re saying the massive lung tumor that killed him wasn’t caused by graphite poisoning?

  18. Sagodjur says:

    Not to mention that they made Robert Johnson look angry on the stamp. In the photo the worst you can say is that maybe he looks bored. Crumb definitely did a better job.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Isn’t this like Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Ghost from the Grand Banks”?

  20. mdh says:

    Aside from the political correctness, these stamps really are photochop disasters.

    Any way we can find out how much it cost to do this work?

    • Art says:

      I would like to know that also, MDF.

      These are truly miserable, stiff and pastey illustrations.
      Pure amateur stuff – as if they weren’t even rendered by a competent portrait artist.

      • scifijazznik says:

        Probably because any competent artist would have said “you want me to what? No thanks.”

        Or at least any “real” artist…. you may have to ask _Username what that is.

  21. Art says:

    I object as much to Jackson’s “healthy glow” as I do the cigg removal.

    Don’t you just love the ‘sanitizing’ of historic photos? :)

    • blueelm says:

      Yep, speaks to a larger compulsion to idealize history so that people can wax nostalgic for the good ol’ days, IMO.

      You know, the days when blues musicians wore vibrant pink lipstick…

  22. Anonymous says:

    Are you seriously complaining that an artistic recreation doesn’t look the same as an original photograph? The Johnson one is odd, though.

  23. iRoy says:

    In St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland there is a Augustus St Gaudens bronze of the author Robert Louis Stevenson holding a fountain pen. The original piece of art had a lit cigarette.

    Original:
    http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/12.76.1

    Nicotine free version:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/castlekay/5084196557/

  24. Orkney Mutant says:

    Did anyone read ‘The Ghost from the Grand Banks’ by Arthur C. Clarke? I seem to remember that the protagonists were programmers employed to write more effective algorithms for removing smoke and cigarettes from classic films…I’ll put that on the slate with communication satellites then.

    • grimc says:

      I’ve never read that, but a character in the book Jurassic Park (or maybe it was Congo) made his millions by coming up with an algorithm to erase smoke from old movies.

    • cmuwriter says:

      Yeah I was just trying to remember what the name of that book was. There was like a national trend to go back over all the old classic movies and remove cigarettes from them. At the same time there was some technology designed to keep windows clean with ultrasonic waves or something and window washers rioted or something. Good read.

  25. _Username says:

    Even better lets pretend dribbling, splattering, and throwing paint, AKA: abstract expressionism is really art

    • Anonymous says:

      Given that art is the practice of expression and generating an emotive response then how does the application of the paint change its desigantion?

      Or do you prefer accurately drawn boats?

      idiot.

    • JackThompson says:

      Ha. Troll harder, noob.

      • _Username says:

        Says the titan of the internet, for the royal heir has spoken, all be silent before his royalty. Lest ye be cast in fiery damn nation and labeled a TROLL “gasp”.
        Sounds like a typical trend follower thats upset he paid 15k for a Pollock “print”. So tell us who’s really troll one with a opinion about what is “art” or one that tries to insult others using a keyboard…good luck with Jack-Off

    • scifijazznik says:

      I’ll ponder that as I wait to see what contribution you make to art or science that earns you a place on a stamp.

      • _Username says:

        Ten thousand lemmings go over a cliff do you think even one of them questions their act of conformity ?
        Abstract expressionism is many things, non-conformist in a anti- art establishment way , but art ?
        Think of it this way, a monkey or elephant picks up a brush and does the same thing …is that “art” in the real sense of the word ? Is the monkey expressing his feeling, is he trying to invoke emotions ?

        • Anonymous says:

          “Think of it this way, a monkey or elephant picks up a brush and does the same thing …is that “art” in the real sense of the word ? Is the monkey expressing his feeling, is he trying to invoke emotions ? ”

          You answer your own question.

          It’s the intent behind the image that makes it art … technically speaking. However you could also argue that a simple ‘image’ created by an elephant is still art. Either definition supports it.

          How do you define art? Something nice to look at? Cause plenty of people like looking at abstract pieces.

          I think what you’re actually insinuating is that things you don’t like aren’t art.

        • scifijazznik says:

          You seem to be abstractly expressing yourself with the written word. It’s a little hard to follow, but I’ll try:

          Like it or not, Pollock changed art. Personally, I was never a fan until I saw his work in person. Then I got it. They move. It’s cool.

          If the monkey or elephant could talk, they could tell us whether they are expressing their feelings. But as it stands, sure, why not? How can we pretend to know one way or the other?

          We can argue all day over whether art is simply something you hang over your sofa. Whether you think Pollock is a hack or a master is irrelevant. What I think about him and his art is irrelevant. But to completely dismiss abstract expressionism is, I think you have to admit, pretty fucking foolish.

          • _Username says:

            “But to completely dismiss abstract expressionism”
            =================================
            I only wish that I could dismiss it.
            I despise it as “art” that much is plain to see, but as an
            “personal expression” …well I can live with that.
            enough said

          • blueelm says:

            You sure are hung up on some old stuff that hardly anyone in the contemporary art world cares about beyond the odd art appreciation class they may have to teach. I’ll tell you what I really hate. Freaking Fauvism. DAMN THEM!

          • Anonymous says:

            Wait, what?

            You accept that it’s expressive, but you deny that it;s art?

            What the hell do you think art is then?

            I think someone needs a dictionary.

            “Art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way to affect the senses or emotions. It encompasses a diverse range of human activities, creations, and modes of expression, including music, literature, film, sculpture, and paintings. …”

            I don’t know what you thought art was, but you’ve been wrong up until now.

        • blueelm says:

          Yep. It’s art. That was easy.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think it depends on how well you dribble, throw, or spatter paint. I can’t make great art with a freaking brush, so I tend to support the idea that the tools don’t make the man.

      I’m personally horrified by the bowlderization of the originals; the facial expressions without the cigarettes are farcial, imaginary, unrelated to the actual persons supposedly portrayed.

      But true art, anyways, always, is determined by the masses, after all; the greatest artworks of the 20th century are dogs smoking cigars and velvet elvii. To believe anything else is elitist nonsense! Warhol and Marceau are still yanking our chains today.

  26. Tdawwg says:

    I’m missing the need for authenticity in these images, which are copies of other images, and made for mass distribution. Does the gubbimint, in the collective view, need to endorse tobacco use on its stamps? Does the missing cigarette, in the collective view, somehow misrepresent Pollack’s or Johnson’s achievements, or the blues or Abstract Expressionism? Do the stamps really have a chance to rewrite history for the truly curious? Etc.

    • mdh says:

      Of course, you’re argument presupposes that the photographer who took the picture was a camera, rather than an artist composing or a journalist documenting.

      There is inherent value in portraying the past accurately. Unless you have some agenda for the future that the past gets in the way of.

      • Tdawwg says:

        Hmm, I don’t understand. Cameras are machines, and don’t act of their own volition. Artists and journalists use cameras. What do you mean, mdh?

        I’m cool with the gubbimint’s anti-smoking “agenda for the future,” even when it extends to breaches of the historical record such as this. “Real” copies are out there, and the risk of *really* distorting “history” (whatever that is!) by a stamp seems negligible to me. Ditto the Huck Finn nontroversy: the originals are safe, these are just copies, and we like copies, don’t we?

        • krispyD says:

          I can’t feel cool with government agenda in general. the simple fact that someone or some committee had to waste the time, money, and energy to consciously decide to remove the cigarettes from these images is repulsive. Pollack smoked, who cares. I’m a big boy, I can handle it.

        • mdh says:

          I mean that the person who took the picture was creating an image just as Pollack is creating there. Your initial comment seemed to remove the photographer from the equation as irrelevant. Someone chose to take those pictures. Then some editor somewhere recognized these were iconic representative images. I get that some moving around of the background is fair enough to fit it into a stamp, but removing a cigarette from a mans mouth is removing a personality trait from reality.

          Why go to this trouble? Just choose a different picture of the man.

          Would you reprint a Pollack with all the blue filtered out? Shepherd Fairey might, but he’d at least make his editorial change clear, not just try to quietly Photoshop away his agenda driven editing. His agenda comes with a signature, so you know it’s there, so you know it’s not an original.

          Before you disagree TDawwg, and I know you want to, pleas answer my yes/no question with at least a yes or a no, so I can tell whether you disagree or are merely being disagreeable – i have a hard time gauging your text sometimes.

          • Jimbo2K7 says:

            What? The portrayal of the man’s addiction to tobacco is a representation of the artist’s identity and is a testament to the artistic expression of the free will of man?

            What a specious argument.

            The tiny canvas of a postage stamp only allows so much. To devote a millimeter to a cigarette is a silly waste of space.

          • mdh says:

            that’s not my argument at all. My argument is that the editorial process nullified the agency of the original photographer, not explicitly.

            If this were Vogue i’d point an laugh. This is removing someone’s “faults” so they can be more admired – when the same editorial choice could me made by using a different photo.

            This is more like, instead of George Lucas making the widely questioned choice to edit unpopular and contentious rifles out of E.T. – the government doing it. It’s Lucas’ prerogative. It is not the governments prerogative.

          • Tdawwg says:

            If by “reprint” you mean “print an image of one of JP’s paintings alone, as an image (like on a postcard),” then I say, Hellz no! That would be to contravene the way most of his images look. But if you asked would I crop an image of JP’s, or would I print in in black-and-white, then, Sure, especially if it’s part of something else. To see the cigarette as the punctum of the original photo is perfectly alright, but I don’t really see it as the focus, present or absent, of either image.

            Dunno, I really disagree about the authenticity issue here. This seems akin to the more benign versions of ‘Shooping: lightening an image, say, or smoothing over someone’s pores. If there are at least some pictures of JP painting sans cigarette, but this one works compositionally, then I don’t see the real harm, in an image meant for iconic mass consumption (not one for a memorial, book, etc.), in marrying the two, and removing the cigarette from an image that otherwise “works” as stamp propaganda. It’s hardly the Commissar Vanishes, no?

            As for agenda-driven, I’m still missing why the government should tacitly promote tobacco use in its stamps when a little ‘Shoop magic could avail, or why they should at least leave themselves open to allegations of the same.

            Sorry for the tonal ambiguity, a result, I fear, of me trying to be extra clear (and thus sounding pedantic), plus the whole Internet-tone thing, plus a bit of Aspiness. I can be disagreeable, though! :P

          • mdh says:

            I see what you’re saying, but a postage stamp IS actually issued to memorialize, and larger versions are sold and displayed in lots of places.

            If you don’t like your iconic image of choice, find another one, don’t literally photoshop history to suit today’s agenda. It’s like pretending Jefferson didn’t sleep with his slaves, or Nixon didn;t use racial slurs. Ugly truths, in todays light, but truths nonetheless.

          • Tdawwg says:

            Am breathlessly awaiting the stamp showing Jefferson in flagrante with Sally Hemings, bewbs and all.

          • mdh says:

            And I am anxiously awaiting a photograph of Jefferson.

          • Tdawwg says:

            And of his bewbs, natch.

    • curiousrobot says:

      Yeah, I’m with Tdawwg. While the photos might be iconic, the cigarettes are not necessarily a part of the iconic nature of Pollack or Johnson. I think that the M. Hulot example from the linked article is a more relevant one—there they’ve taken a pipe that was closely associated with the character and altered it (in a particularly bizarre way).

      Take a cigarette from Jimi Hendrix and you’re left with an iconic guitarist; take away Groucho’s cigar and you’re treading on thin ice…

      • Anonymous says:

        The smoking and the cigarettes in those photos are artifacts of their lives. The fact that Jackson Pollock and Robert Johnson were smokers, the way they smoked, all contribute to our understanding of their characters and the impression that these men have left on our culture. In the case of Pollock there were literal bits of cigarette and ash left in his work. To deny the cigarettes is to deny who they were and who they portrayed themselves to be and how they were perceived by society.

    • Rajio says:

      Actually with Pollock, cigarette ashes were part of his paintings, so, yes, the cigarette was an important part of it.

      • Tdawwg says:

        They were certainly part of his facture, sure, but a missing cigarette in this image neither misrepresents Pollock’s daily practice nor his art historical achievement: notice you’re not complaining that the stamp doesn’t present a detailed picture of the painting, ashes and all. This is an image of an artist at work. Following the arguments for strict historical accuracy, whyn’t show him drinking or drunk, also, historians tell us, integral aspects of his daily work?

        • Rajio says:

          Sure but the artist’s process involved smoking.

        • mdh says:

          If there were empty quart bottles of whatever in the original picture, do you think they’d make it onto the stamp?

          I assume that neither the subjects nor the original photographers would agree to these sanitized versions. Pretty darned sure of that in the case of Pollock.

        • freshacconci says:

          Actually, a drunken fistfight at the Cedar Tavern would make for an excellent and educational stamp.

          • Avram / Moderator says:

            When I think of Pollack, I think of the story about him taking a whiz in Peggy Guggenheim’s fireplace. Let’s have that on a stamp!

          • freshacconci says:

            Well, now we’re talking a whole series. How about a wrecked Oldsmobile?

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m probably over-reacting but what bothers me is the idea that its ok to edit history to your needs if your motives are in tune with the current dogma.

      • Tdawwg says:

        Except that we do this all the time, at the level of daily life and our use of culture, memory, and history.

        Let’s be clear, this is an alteration of a photograph: in BoingBoing terms, a “copy,” “remix,” etc. It neither detracts from, nor replaces, the original work. It’s hard for me to see how this equals a rewriting of history in any but the most semantic, pedantic way. History in the form of the original photograph and its legion of copies is still intact, as proved by all of the comments here objecting to the altered copy. I do think mdh’s point is critical, that the stamps do indeed memorialize their subjects (good point, mdh!), that they’ll be seen by many, etc.: but they don’t really stand a chance of replacing Pollock or Johnson in their tobacco-redolent historical nuance.

        Cf. the Huck Finn nontroversy: nothing was “taken out” of Huck Finn. Huck Finn is everywhere: you can’t harm “it” by producing a new version, a “copy,” with 219 instances of one word changed for another. It’s just another version, inferior to most, useful to some, like these stamps.

    • blueelm says:

      I’m with you on that. I’m actually more irritated that they’re just mediocre illustrated versions of photographs. I guess it cost too much just to use the photographs?

  27. dannysland says:

    (Godfree: “When you see any formal portrait of Walt Disney holding a pencil, that’s a pencil airbrushed over a cigarette.”)

    And sometimes, if you look closely, you can still see the cigarette’s reflection in the desk or table. My brother noticed that on the portrait that used to hang in “The Walt Disney Story” at Disneyland.

  28. jordan says:

    It’s not just that Jackson Pollock smoked, but that his cigarettes and their ash ended up in his paintings. They’re plainly visible if you ever get a chance to see Pollock’s work in person (or maybe in a really, really high-quality scan).

    The cigarette in his mouth isn’t just a cigarette, but a shorthand for how Pollock worked. IMHO, that’s part of what makes the original photo so cool.

    As for the Robert Johnson stamp adaptation, the less said the better. Maybe he looks so pissed off because he knows how fugly the stamp turned out.

  29. JamesMason says:

    I remember the story that cmuwriter and Orkney Mutant wrote about – I came here to post about it too. Similarly, I wonder how WWII history books in Germany portray things without reproducing the swastika – it’s banned there. I remember building model airplanes that were apparently meant to be sold internationally and the decal sheet required you to painstakingly assemble the swastika from 5 different decals – a “plus” sign and 4 arms. Considering I was 12 and the decals were 3 or 4 mm across, it’s safe to say my plane went decal free, at least that decal…

    • Anonymous says:

      you have been misinformed. of course you can reproduce the swastika in historic context. and in artistic context, too.

    • ChibiR says:

      There are exceptions to the ban, including ones for reporting about historical events or research and teaching. Here’s the Wikipedia article on the law in question.

    • peterbruells says:

      German history books, history programes, exhibition, etc show the Swatika just fine. scholarly works are explicetdly exempt from the ban.

      The ban itself is actually against the wearing and display of anti-constitutional symbols, there’s always been a debate (apart from scholary works) when it was legit to display the Swastika and when not.

      Generally speaking, the majority of Germans find playful usage of the swastika, as in toy models, television shows, superhero comics, etc, too be deeply disturbing. It’s simply not socially accepted and people who think that they have to have it on their stuff are viewed as being strange at best and to be Nazi sympathizers at worst.

    • rimstalker says:

      it’s legal in ‘informative contexts’. Which – I would guess – also could be construed to cover movies, as long as they are not Nazi propaganda.

      Nuremberg (the one from the trials) has turned like half of the huge colloseum the nazis started building into a documentation center, and there is swastikas aplenty, both in photos and video.

  30. Anonymous says:

    I’ve seen this done to the cover of Abbey Road too.

  31. mkultra says:

    It isn’t a photograph, it’s a painting of a photograph. Artistic choices are made all the time, and the one overarching rule of thumb is: they should never be made by a committee (which probably happened in this case), and they should never be up for vote.

    This is a stamp, that’s all. People lick it. The purists should start being concerned when the archival photographs are all being destroyed, which isn’t happening and will never happen.

    I’m not a tobacco fan. I’ve watched it destroy lives. It killed my mother and my sister. I think the edict that says that my tax dollars will never again be used to promote or glamorize tobacco use ever again…. yeah, I’m OK with that. There will be some little ludicrous contradictions because of this, but that’s OK.

  32. Baldhead says:

    Pretending bbad things from the past didn’t exist never helps. Instead, we lose the object lessons found there. And frankly, one way or another, a cigarette, or cigar, or whatever is as important to knowing who a person was as the clothes they wore.

  33. asahiki says:

    A man in the first picture, he looks like Bruce Willis.

  34. Teller says:

    Johnson’s airbrushed ciggie is one thing. But the devil, too?

  35. BurntHombre says:

    I’ve always suspected, but can’t confirm, that a cigarette was photoshopped out of Paul Simon’s hand in this album’s cover photo.

  36. Thebes says:

    I am more disturbed by this kind of historical revisionism than by the tobacco industry (and their secretive chemical additives).

    Its not that much of a step to airbrush a person out of a photo for ideological reasons.

  37. Steven Stwalley says:

    It is funny that they did not change the lip positions, so now it looks like they are both sneering where the absent cigarette was. We can attribute the sneer to nicotine withdrawal.

  38. Enormo says:

    Also — they should have hired R. Crumb to do the Robert Johnson illo.

    I was thinking the same thing but about Pollock.

    In Crumb there is a scene when R. was working through some sketches with his son. They were sketching a Native American woman I believe. Anyways, his son was clearly very talented but the expression on the woman’s face was ever so slightly off. I think in R.’s version he just about nailed the expression.

    Whenever I see a sketch of a photo that doesn’t quite capture the essence of the photo I think about that scene.

    In the Pollock reproduction he looks more pained than in the photo.

  39. Ambiguity says:

    I’m against this for pretty practical reasons.

    If the government has a social agenda (such as decreasing smoking), this it should enact that agenda through education, not lying — and these stamps are a form of lying.

    If you look at the state of the so-called “drug education” program in the US, it is an abysmal failure, in part because it is based upon propaganda and lies, not rational education and facts.

    These stamps just show that, despite billions of dollars wasted and many lives ruined, the government just hasn’t learned its lesson.

  40. Church says:

    Hey! Pollock isn’t shown using proper ventilation! I hope there’s a revised version that conforms to the Artist’s Complete Health and Safety Guide (Third Edition)

  41. Anonymous says:

    The walls of Steakhouse 55 in the Disneyland Hotel are covered with life sized black and white photos of Hollywood in the 1950′s. Most of the photos originally included the various stars smoking, but all the cigarettes and cigars have been removed.

  42. KPS666 says:

    Why is there a stamp of Bruce Willis pouring paint on a canvas?

  43. benher says:

    Was it Percival Dunwoody, Idiot Time Traveler?

    PS – Crumb would totally have rocked the Robert Johnson illustration!

  44. patrikd says:

    Your theory of time traveling cigarette snatchers is obviously flawed. Clearly, it would have to be the other way around: time travelers must be getting historical figures hooked on cigarettes, despite current-day evidence that they didn’t used to be smokers.

    Probably a plot by 22nd century tobacco companies, in an attempt to eliminate any offspring involved in the anti-smoking movement.

  45. Anonymous says:

    When they were planning the FDR Memorial for the National Mall in Washington DC, they faced a problem: should the FDR statue show him in his wheelchair (representing reality) or not in a wheelchair (the way he presented himself to the world at large).

    After much arguing back and forth, they compromised, and did one statue with the wheelchair and one without.

    The possiblity of including FDR’s trademark cigarette holder (which makes him immediately recognizable as President FDR) was never even raised. They sculptor worked from a photo of FDR with a cigarette, and sculpted a statue of FDR without it. (They did, however, see fit to include his dog Fala.)

    I understand that all good progressives in 2011 hate tobacco, but we should NOT be whitewashing history this way.

    Remember, the best remedy for bad speech is MORE good speech. Instead of trying to censor the very historical existence of cigarettes (THINK OF THE CHILDREN), we should use past tobacco use as a teaching moment.

  46. wrybread says:

    I can at least *understand* why they’d censor these: don’t want to show role models smoking, etc. But why on earth are they censoring the Twin Towers? They’re removing it from movies, and I never see pictures of it anymore. That one’s just weird.

  47. Anonymous says:

    Great idea! Do we really need to know that our heroes had vices? I’m looking forward to the Roscoe Arbuckle stamp where he’s skinny.

  48. Anonymous says:

    Winston Smith would be proud.

  49. richydicky says:

    Also, aren’t the perpetrators breaking copyright of the original photos by reproducing and modifying them?

  50. freshacconci says:

    I think the problem — aside from these being horrendous illustrations — is that they chose to use iconic images of the subjects. Had a different image of Pollack been used as a source, one where he wasn’t smoking, fine. But this image is within our consciousness as a figure smoking. Likewise, if you’d asked me to mentally picture Robert Johnson, this image would have likely been the one. And it would have included the dangling cigarette. I’m not certain how many other photographs of Johnson there are, but there are plenty of Pollock, even some of him at work, without a cigarette. These photos are too much part of our collective consciousness as they are, with cigarettes, to simply erase. What about Churchill and his cigars? FDR and his cigarette in a holder? These are iconic images.

    And as others have pointed out, the use of these images as sources, without cigarettes, create bizarre images, angry, sneering faces, that are not evident in the original photos.

  51. Church says:

    I want Shepard Farley to design a stamp.

  52. Anonymous says:

    Smoking is not good. We all know that. Yet I feel it shouldn’t give people the right to rewrite history or present it is a way that ignores something that the audience might not agree with. If doing this is okay – then what else is okay to change?

    I’m sure there was a time when removing a ‘coloured’ person from a crowd photo was deemed ok too.

    History books are rife with bias and ‘corrections’ based on current society standards.

    Choose an alternate photo as least. But to choose two photo where the facial expression and lips both show a reaction to smoking is a little weird.

    This is not a big issue. It’s just a disappointing one.

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