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Exaggerated Photographs

Updated on November 28, 2017

Before there was Photoshop, there were many simpler methods for making the impossible seem real--in the form of a modified photograph. The simplest technique being to take one photograph, cut out key elements, and paste them into another photo.

These photo-postcards are referred to as 'exaggerated', 'hoax', 'fantasy, or 'tall tale' postcards. They often displayed products or animals endemic to the state or area, and were sold to tourists. And of course there are also a few on the subject of really big fish!

One of the most popular subject for these photographs were outrageous over-sized crops. A few of the more well-known producers are listed below.

William H Martin

William H Martin was a well known maker of these exaggerated photographs which were made available as postcards. He produced the cards under the name of the Martin Postcard Company. Martin did business in Kansas from around 1908 until 1912.

1909: A load of extra good apples
1909: A load of extra good apples

Vegetables were a popular subject for Martin and other producers, because the postcards were often souvenirs bragging about the produce of a state of local area within a state. Martin is considered by many to be the most skilled creator of this type of postcard.

1918: Marketing Potatoes
1918: Marketing Potatoes

The best makers of exaggerated photograph postcard new how to carefully match the light source for the two pictures. And the inserted photograph is delicately cut to allow wheels, the sides of trucks and other parts to seem to project in front.

As well as vegetables, almost anything might be enlarged for a postcard including animal like: geese, mules, or sheep. William Martin covered a particularly wide range of subjects.

1909: Taking our geese to market
1909: Taking our geese to market

Frank "Pop" Conard (1935-1963)

Frank Conard, also of Kansas, preferred grasshoppers as the subject of his exaggerated photographs. Depicting them as quirky mounts, holding up trains or attacking people. These were referred to as his "whopper hopper" cards. He also liked to construct pictures of people riding enormous jackrabbits.

Off for the camp
Off for the camp

Alfred Stanley Johnson Jr. (1833-1914)

Johnson started with the typical vegetable shots but then moved into scenes that were more variable and had more movements in them. Some of these moved away from size exaggeration, like the "car meets cows" scene shown below.

Some consider that Johnson invented the exaggerated photo craze, but it seems more likely that it was developed simultaneously by a number of different photographers of the time.

We never stop
We never stop

Similar postcards continue to made up to the current day.


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