Editing memories:Airbrushing

note from the author: Yep didn’t post in a while, but yay finally thought of something to write.

Okay, so going a bit out of regular topic here, and into art and history, starting with a specific photo.

In the photo: taken by the Moscow Canal: the water commissioner Nikolai Yezhov is seen standing beside Joseph Stalin, leader of Soviet Union.
Nice photo isn’t it? Everyone looks so happy… sorta.

Well let me tell you more about Nikolai Yezhov, talented guy: worked his way up. Born in Saint Petersburg. Worked as a tailor’s assistant and factory worker. Then from 1915 to 1917 served the Imperial Russian Army. Then from 1919- 1921 he fought the Red Army during the Russian Civil war.
In 1934 he was elected to the Central Committee of the Communist Party, next year he became secretary. From 1935 to 1939 he was also chairman of the central commission for party control.

Now you can read more on the Wikipedia page here so let’s fast forward …
In 1936 he became the head of the NKVD and became a key figure in the Great Purge of the Soviet Union. Then arrested in 1939 as suspected for ‘wrecking’, then executed in 1940.

So what does that have to do with this peaceful photograph? Well it wasn’t the same anymore.

Guess Stalin didn’t really hang out with Yezhov.

Now this isn’t political commentary; history and politics isn’t among the author’s strong suits.

However let’s look at the fact that this was done without Photoshop, and hence the author decided to write about it.
We will talk about, airbrushing.
An Airbrush is a small air operated tool that can spray paint, ink or dye by an atomizer.


Airbrushes since then have been used to create beautiful art, and since then been used in various fields.
In the case of the photo mentioned in the starting one of those fields as you have guessed is photo manipulation.

Though now you would use Photoshop, in the pre-digital era it was realised that skilled people could and would use airbrushing to aid in doctoring of an image.
In the Soviet Union many images were doctored via this, to remove people who weren’t in Stalin’s good books anymore and to edit certain objects out.
read more about the doctoring of images in the soviet union
In fact the term ‘airbrushed out’ to talk about rewriting history comes from there.
Airbrushed is also a term that used to talk about photos that have been designed to remove imperfections.


Though now we mostly use the term ‘photoshopped’ (ahh how times change *giggles*).


Airbrushes are used for various applications outside doctoring images now. To create beautiful art, temporary tattoos and get a fake tan.

check this and the related pins out for some beautiful examples of airbrush art

So next time you see a photograph from a time before Photoshop that seems kind of unreal, know that humans always knew how to edit memories.

more sources and links:




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