When anyone is in a position of power, public perception becomes either your foundation, or a tidal wave that will swallow you and your legacy whole.
Which means, of course, that PR becomes an incredibly important tool to have in your arsenal. This is why all public figures have countless advisers and managers whose only job is to look after the images of their superior. They do not only reflect the powerful’s persona to the masses, after all; they create it.
PR gurus meticulously examine every image, tweet or video that goes public to ensure that they convey the right message. If they don’t, they are altered or thrown out.
Nowadays, thanks to Photoshop, alteration has become as quick as it is common, and virtually every image in every newspaper or magazine ever gets touched up a bit (or a lot!). But even before Photoshop was around, pictures were being altered to fool the masses and distort perception.
Famous Photoshopped Photos: Joseph Stalin
As part of the trade, dictators are pretty great at doctoring images. Since they are usually not inconvenienced by a free press or those who feel free to express their opinions, it’s a lot easier for their cabinets to control every image of their beloved leaders sent out to the press.
Case in point: here is a relatively standard photo of Stalin along with other Soviet officials. To Stalin’s left is Nikolai Yezhov, head of Stalin’s “police force”. However, at one point Yezhov fell out of Stalin’s good graces and was removed from office. As was standard practice for Stalin, he attempted to have Yezhov removed from history as well, and had him eliminated from public record, including the above photo.
Leon Trotsky was really the one who lived through his own erasure from the Soviet Union.
As Stalin’s main rival, Trotsky was a trusted advisor to Lenin and was the one who everyone, Lenin included, saw as the next in line to take power. Stalin, of course, would ensure that that never happened and, as with Yezhov, proceeded to scratch out any signs of Trotsky from the public record.
This example is a bit more confusing. For some reason, Joseph Goebbels is removed from the original image, but we are not sure why. The two of them never had a falling out, and Goebbels remained by Hitler’s side until the end.
As a bonus, here are a few more altered images showing Hitler in possible disguise. These were created after the war by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) out of fear that Hitler might have escaped Germany.
Creating an illusion of power and grandeur is essential to the success of any megalomaniac with dictatorial aspirations. In the image above we have Benito Mussolini appearing all heroic and triumphant.
However, the real photograph shows a horse handler making sure that the horse doesn’t rear at an inopportune time, dropping Mussolini on his fascist posterior.