“Fun” with Photoshop

This week for our digital history class, we assigned ourselves the lovely project of toying around with Photoshop and seeing where it took us.

A handy program for digital historians to know, Photoshop can be used when creating online exhibits, posters – anything, really. So I was quite excited for the challenge.

I started off with a photo I took this summer of a bridge in Ottawa that is leading into Quebec:

I have a novice interest in photography and have looked at different people’s experiments with Photoshop. I was hoping to take my picture and just make it look, well, cool. I didn’t want it to look realistic, or edited out mistakes, I wanted to change it.

So I made it look like this:

This wasn’t exactly as cool as my mental “vision” looked, but it certainly is different than it was before!

I did all of this through a mixture of playing around and layering other photos I’ve taken on top of each other. While maybe not the prettiest masterpiece, I learned a lot about the program from my fiddling.

This picture is a mix of these:




Then I took the original picture and put it on top of it all, distorting it so it created another layer in the photo.

Can you see each photo?

Probably. That’s because, despite my hardest attempts and watching a plethora of “how to” photoshop videos online, I couldn’t quite figure out finicky details that allowed me to remove certain lines and faults.


I managed to emphasize the red in the photo from the lights, which I wanted since the brake lights were so prominent from the cars on the bridge. I also blurred some lines so they blended a little better. Throw that in with some general fiddling with contrasts, feathering, and shading levels and you’ve got the image I made.

I was hoping to create an image of lights coming at the viewer and didn’t quite succeed, but hopefully I’ll learn more in class about the program and will be able to improve my “masterpiece”.

Learning from the Past

When writing a book review on Pete Sigal’s book The Flower and the Scorpion: Sexuality and Ritual in Early Nahua Culture, I started thinking about the lessons history could bring to us.

In the novel, Sigal asks readers to let go of their preconceived notions of sexuality and gender lines to better understand Nahua culture. “Sexuality”, as we know it, didn’t exist in early Nahua society. And gender lines were not static, binary categories. For example, goddesses in certain ceremonies embodied male and female traits of war and fertility. And “homosexuality” wasn’t a sin, because “sin”, as defined today, also didn’t exist.

From this, I started thinking about our categorizations of gender and sexuality. Can we learn from Nahua society’s lack of confining categories? Aren’t many queer activists currently fighting for these categories to be broken and expanded? Why must someone check “male” or “female” on a questionnaire? What if they don’t identify as either? After spending thirteen years closeted in a conservative private school, I like to think I can some what relate to the feeling of trying to squeeze yourself into today’s “norms”. It’s not a pleasant feeling, to not “fit in”.

Maybe Nahua society had the answers all along. But then colonists had to come and ruin everything, so much of their traditional thinking was lost in a swirl of imposed Catholic sexual sin.

Learning from Indigenous culture is actually the main point in Georges Sioui’s book For an Amerindian Autohistory (No, I surprisingly didn’t come up with this idea all by myself). Translated from french, Sioui talks about evoking the Amerindian concept of respect for all beings on earth, rather than adhering to a social hierarchy. He shows Amerindian history, using Indigenous tradition belief systems, to depict another perspective. Sioui helps readers understand the concept of the Great Circle of Life, where everything is connected and therefore deserves the same respect, and asks them to apply this to their lives.

Once again, he has a point. Why aren’t we learning from the histories of other cultures? We spend all this time theorizing and thinking of changes, but what if we looked into the past and other cultural thought and drew from those? Maybe we could pick up some tips. We all know we need them.