This unassuming, beautiful photo marks more than an exotic beach on Bora Bora and an exotic woman enjoying it. "Jennifer in Paradise" marks the first Photoshopped image.
If you've ever used that photo-manipulating software, you're familiar with this picture. It is a demonstration of the technology we now take for granted.
While on vacation with his soon-to-be fiancee in 1987, John Knoll took a picture of Jennifer. The couple, both employed at George Lucas's special-effects company Industrial Light & Magic, were relaxing after working on the film "Who Framed Roger Rabbit."
Back home, Knoll got back to work.
At ILM, Knoll had encountered a cutting-edge piece of hardware known as the Pixar Image Computer, one of the first that could be used to manipulate images. "I thought it was amazing," he says. "The fact that you could take an image from film, scan it in and turn it into digits and then manipulate those numbers and put it back out on to piece of film – it meant that there was literally no limit to what you could do to it in the middle."
The Pixar machine cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and the image-processing software was so complex it required a specially trained operator. So Knoll was somewhat taken aback when he visited his brother Thomas, who was reading for a doctorate in computer vision at the University of Michigan, and discovered that he'd developed some similar software that could run on a much cheaper Macintosh Plus.
Knoll worked with his brother to develop the cheaper software, and needed to demonstrate its capabilities. Armed with Jennifer's picture, Knoll and his brother scanned the photo and then manipulated it with the software they had dubbed Photoshop.
"It was a good image to do demos with," Knoll recalls. "It was pleasing to look at and there were a whole bunch of things you could do with that image technically." And maybe there was something in it that hinted at the kind of more perfect world that Photoshop might reveal. Knoll would leave a copy of the software in a package including the picture at the companies he'd visited. Often he'd return to find that the programmers had cloned his wife.
John Knoll, now chief creative officer at Industrial Light & Magic, is proud of the impact that Photoshop has had on the world. "Any tool can be used for good or bad," he says. "It's really the ethics of the artist using it."