Friday, October 16, 2020

“Photoshop And That Darned Tree”

"Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil"
Jost Amman. 1587.

Copyright © Edward Riojas

No, I didn’t photoshop either of these masterful representations of the Garden of Eden. Neither is this a post about glossing over the Fall. Or sin. There is, however, a strange connection between the software application and that darned tree.

When I was younger, I misunderstood the danger of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I credit that ignorance to Satan himself, who lied to Eve in declaring that she would “be like God, knowing good and evil.” Somewhere in the stupider parts of my brain I reasoned that, once having eaten the forbidden fruit, we would know important stuff – like passwords into heaven and other classified information – which really wasn’t ours to have.

Experience this side of heaven has taught me differently. I now know stuff I’d rather not know. I’ve experienced things that didn’t exist in Eden, and it sucks so much. The Lord in His infinite wisdom tried to keep that sort of knowledge from us, but Adam and Eve did not heed His voice. And we are no better.

Strangely, this knowledge of good and evil cascades out of our sinful lives and ends up in unexpected places. I’ve heard stories from police officers, for example, who relate how little parts of them die with each horrible crime case they handle. We shall surely die, indeed.

Detail of "Garden of Eden"
Lucas Cranach the Elder. 1530.


Which brings me to an assignment I had ages ago while working as an artist in a press newsroom. Having expertise in Photoshop was one of the many skills at my disposal. Normally, the photo editing software was used to create cover art or to clean up otherwise unusable photos.

One day an assignment came from “the other side of the building,” where advertising and classified departments reigned. It was an extremely rare assignment. It was handed to me personally, and was done so somewhat clandestinely.

A photo was given to me to “fix.” It was an old photo that was to be paired with a present-day photo of a couple who were celebrating a landmark wedding anniversary. In the old photo, the husband stood behind the wife, who was holding a toddler. The child had to go.

From a technical perspective, the assignment was a nightmare come to life. Nixing the child was one thing, but reconstructing the various folds of clothing and rebuilding non-existent arms was another. After several hours, I somehow made a convincing image. But something horrible remained.

I felt as if I had been privy to tragedy; to heartbreak; to an unspoken history hidden under layers of years and silence. No one would suspect any of this by looking at the photo – not even if they searched pixel by pixel. But I became intimate with it all as the child’s face was erased and a striped blouse of 1950’s vintage was put in its place. Even in my own ignorance, I knew more than I cared to know.

And now you know.