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Synonyms: photo manipulation, photomanip, CGA, fan edit
See also: fanart, Collage, Publicity Still
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A manip is a photo manipulation, often depicting TV and movie characters in situations different from canon.

Manips alter and manipulate the photo source (often a screencap or promo picture) in such a way that it shows something different than it did before. There are also crossover manips that depict characters from difference source materials interacting together. Within book and comics fandoms, manips can also be used to depict a fancast; showing a fan's preferred actor/actors playing the role of canon characters.

Manips can be used as fanfiction covers, banners, and illustrations. They are also used in vids, icons, and multimedia installations, and of course they can stand on their own as individual artworks.

A vernacular non-fannish equivalent is a photoshopped image. The technical term for this process and the resulting image is photomontage, "combinations of photographic images, or photographic with other images, such as architectural drawings, usually arranged into a somewhat unified image."[1] According to Getty, photomontage is distinct from collage, which is an assemblage not intended to look seamless. However, photomontage is often used to describe a collage composed of photographs.[2] Some manips are done crudely on purpose and could be described as examples of collage.

The term fan edit is used on Tumblr more frequently than manip; however, fan edit is broader and potentially includes almost any digital manipulation of photographs, including changing the color. (On Wikipedia, fan edit is defined exclusively as a video fanwork: the fan equivalent of a director's cut.)

An early term for manips used in K/S fandom was CGA.


A fan in 1994 asked:

The recent talk of computer editing and actor-fan interaction got me thinking about the explicit art discussion a while back. To those of you who like explicit art, what do you feel about using computer scanning and editing to create explicit art *from actual photographs*? The technology is there to scan in a photo of the actor and a photo from a porn mag and merge the two. And the artist can augment as much as she likes -- adding touches which could make the final picture emotionally charged and "more than just a porn picture." On the one hand, my immediate reaction is I'm against it, because it strikes me as the visual equivalent of actor-slash, and also as more impersonal as a drawing a person has slaved over using pen and paper. On the other hand, computer art is an art form, and I'm sure some of the artists here *are* creating works on computer, maybe even using scanned photos as springboards. Just because it's digital doesn't mean it can't convey the same nuances as a pen-and-ink illustration. Also, couldn't this technique be perfect for "there's that great look in such-and-such that would be perfect for my slash illustration, if only I could capture it" situations. Is this something that's already being done? How do you all feel about this? [3]

Another fan replied:

Are you kidding? I live for the day when computers are going to be powerful enough to holographically project an entire fannish story of our choice (say, "Courts of Honor" for example) into our living rooms. You'd feed it the source material (e.g., the TV show) along with the new dialogue, action, scenes, etc. that you wanted it to make, and voila! instant show. Talk about copyright issues. Not to mention, as you did, the actor slash issue. [3]

The most well-known manip artists in the mailing list age of online fandom were The Theban Band, with their highly refined and realistic slash manips in several fandoms. Since that time, better tools have also made it easier to produce high quality manips, and DVD source has made it easier to acquire high-quality screencaps. Eventually, more and more fanartists began to create artistic works in this medium.

The first use of a photomanipped image in a fanzine is not known. However, fanzine publisher Kathy Resch remembers that:

...the first pieces of CGA art I published were three pieces by DJW in 1994 in T'hy'la # 15. They accompanied Amanda Warrington's story The Kiss. [4]

From Dribbling Scribbling Women: The History of Our Art:

Kathy also printed the first CGA to be published in K/S fandom. She tells us, “I published several CGAs in T’hy’la 15 (May 1994) to accompany Amanda W’s story ‘The Kiss.’ The CGAs were created by her husband, DJW. I do not know the name of the photo manipulation program he used, but it was the first time I encountered this concept. I visited her during this time and her husband demonstrated the program to me. I was fascinated by what he was able to achieve, and even more so, by the implications of what similar programs would be able to accomplish in the future. I recognized right away that this was a new art form. I knew immediately I wanted to print work of this type as well as traditional hand artwork.

Sample of Some Very Early Manips


External Material

Sometimes external material (ie, not a screencap) is used in a photomanip. In the 1990s when this kind of fanart first began to appear, it occasionally was referred to derisively as "head replacement pictures" (My hed iz pastede on yay) implying that no great artistic skill was needed to create photomanips. Other fans felt uncomfortable about explicit manips because they appeared to be too close to RPF[5][6], especially when the "base" pictures used were of the actor, not the character. Within some fan communities, explicit or even romantic RPF manips were frowned upon or outright banned.[7]

Pros and Cons

From a fan in 1997:

Pixel Manipulation vs. Fan Art.

It's clear to me that fans are looking for different things from a nude drawing of an actor/character that from a nude photograph of an actor/character. (I will be using Mr. David Duchovny as an example... Fan artists have long used photographs as source material for fan art. This nude Playgirl layout with a change of head becomes Mr. Ray Doyle nude. This advertisement becomes Skinner and Mulder in a playful moment. This is accepted, acceptable, and does not interfere with the viewers enjoyment of the art, or, in many cases, the willingness to bid high at auction. The transformation into drawing doesn't affect its appreciation by fans. Now take that same Playgirl layout and through the means of pixel manipulation take the nude torso and attached head of Mr. David Duchovny and combine it with the nude crotch and legs of the nameless male model. The result: a created representation of Mr. D in the nude.

The fan does not respond with "Oh! Nice job!" the way they would for a piece of fan art. No, the fan responds by studying the picture to determine if it is "really" David. Clearly it is "really" David - parts of him at least. What the fan really wants to determine is "Is that really David Duchovny's penis?" In fan art one presumes that the artist, unless she got very lucky, did not have the real Duchovny penis as her model, but this never seems to interfere with the fan's enjoyment of the art. So what's the problem with enjoying the pixel manipulation the same way? Apparently, fans look for truth, evidence, facts in photographs — well, nude photographs anyway, and something else in fan art. It can't just be a representation of an emotional relationship, because fan art also contains examples of single figures posed no differently than the guys do for Playgirl, or gay skin magazines. [8]

In 1999, a fan wrote that she didn't consider this sort of artwork "real":

I think I’ve only seen computer generated work by this artist, so it was a treat to see an actual drawing of Alison’s... I vastly appreciate and enjoy this drawing over any computerized photos, partially because, no matter how expertly done, I’m always aware that it’s photos put together and it doesn’t exist. [9]

A fan in 2001 wrote:

The 'ugh' factor brings me to my soapbox topic, something I've been thinking about for a while. I refer to computer-manipulated photographs. Most of the ones I've come across have been in Sentinel fandom, and many are beautiful images, but I have also seen some really explicit shots where the very recognisable actors' heads have been superimposed on bodies in very, very explicit poses. This really is beginning to worry me, as it seems an extension of actor slash. Somehow artwork never seems so bad, as it is obviously a work of imagination and creation; there used to be a comment in the early K/S days that a picture was a very good Kirk, but not much like Shatner. The dividing line seemed so much clearer. What do others think, especially given that the photo manipulations could be picked up by outsiders? Is it fair to the actors? [10]

Another fan in 2001 drew a different sort of line:

I have only seen these in K/S and XF. I am not a fan of ones where the head is stuck on someone else's body, not because I ever considered the unfairness to the actor, but simply because you can tell at once that the body is not Kirk or Mulder or whoever. As [name redacted] said, a lot of very muscular porn-type bodies are used, and thats not the character's. If it's the character or even the actor you like, why would you want to change the bodies that attracted you? Its like those people who say they love a character and then proceed to rape and generally put him through hell. As [name reacted] said, maybe it's to show their strength but I don't like it. But back to the pix, I only like ones that manipulate scenes from the series and look more natural. Two of my favourites are XF. One is a pic where Mitch Pileggi (Skinner) was hamming it up for the cameras at some do by kissing Robert Patrick (Doggett) on the cheek - this was manipulated by changing RP for David D. Another one is of an off-duty Pileggi with his arm around DD who is holding up his hand to show his wedding ring. These two bodies were taken from separate photos but blended seamlessly. Giving these examples I've just realised I prefer manipulated pix that show affection and love rather than explicit scenes. [11]

In 2002,a fan had this to say:

I think it's totally cool that photo manipulations are being used more and more in K/S zines. It's definitely an art form not to be ignored. I hope the trend continues and other editors follow suit to keep K/S current with the times. [12]

In 2006, a fan wrote:

photo manips I find hard to look at, especially when they're quite explicit. I think it crosses a bit too far into infringing on the actors somehow... Can't help but wonder how they'd feel if they saw an actual photo of themselves like that - drawings seem less real somehow, but maybe I'm just being old-fashioned about that... [13]

In 2008, a fan extolls Photoshop and how it can make anyone an artist:

I do agree with you that CGAs/CGIs are a new phase for fandom and I'm forever grateful I stumbled onto the means to create them. I am the furthest thing from an artist, and yet I am able to bring bits from here and bits from there together so we can see Kirk and Spock in situations and poses that we might not otherwise see. It's the most fun I've ever had! I can remember looking at pictures of K&S in magazines back in the 80's and thinking, if only they were standing closer together, if only Kirk had his hand on Spock's shoulder, if only, if only... Photoshop has made this possible not only for me but for anyone who wants to give it a try. I'm amazed and delighted by it all and knowing it brings excitement to another K/S lover makes it all the more thrilling. [14]

A fan in 2014 commented about early manips, explicitness, and realism:

And then digital art first came out and then people were doing photomanipulations. I was very upset by the thought — the bodies of, you know, two men entwined with Kirk and Spock's head. Y'know. I found it kind of offensive. 'Cause it wasn't a very smooth, and it was awkward-looking. And ... it's impossible to think. I also was kinda like, "You know, those guys, the pictures of their faces, they didn't intend to be two bodies entwined. That wasn't their intention when they allowed themselves to be photographed." I've kinda gotten over that. And as photomanips have gotten better, I do tend to do more, publish more. In fact, I've used them for covers. But I still don't like the explicit stuff. You know, I kind of draw the line at photomanipulation explicit ...I don't know what the difference is, except it's a representation and not a fact. The photograph is a fact. Somebody has interpreted the face through their artistic ability and created an image. To me that's a technicality probably, but it's the way I see it. But, being an artist, I love illustration, 'cause I can't do it very well. I've done some, out of desperation — I need a [zine] cover! — or one of my friends "I need a cover!" [15]

A fan in 2016 explained how she felt fandom tastes and changed, and explained the differences between collages and manips:

The basic distinction is usually that "graphics" are any digital collage type art, including stuff where you take an existing image of an actor and combine it with other elements, while "manips" are ones where you take the actor's face and put it on another body.

I remember some of you guys telling me about an experience years ago when photomanips first became a big thing at co art shows and traditional photorealistic illustration was suddenly less popular. I wasn't around for that, but I can assure you that the pendulum has swung in the other direction--*hard*.

AO3 has all sorts of fans, obviously, but a very significant part of that population detests all photomanips and finds it embarrassing that they exist at all. I have heard frequent complaints about oldschool fandoms where long stories online often have surprise photomanips buried half way through. This crowd (and it is a large one) will ignore a photomanip the same way they'd ignore it if you had a wardrobe malfunction in public.

The fights about whether manips count as "fan art", especially in gift exchanges where you can request fic, "fan art", etc. are epic and ongoing. Fights about graphics overall and the relationship of "graphics" to "manips" to "fan art" are also frequent. [16]

Crossing the Streams

It is generally considered bad fannish behavior to show sexually explicit or nude photomanips of characters to the actors who play them, as it is considered creepy. It is usually a third party, not the actual photomanip artist, who decides it would be a good idea to do this. The Theban Band has been especially visible in this regard.


Examples of Different Styles and Fandoms

Example Archives and Websites with Manip Galleries

Further Reading


  1. ^ photomontages entry at Getty's Art & Architecture Thesaurus
  2. ^ Usage in zines quoted on Fanlore, plus the Wikipedia article on Collage: "Collage made from photographs, or parts of photographs, is called photomontage."
  3. ^ a b Discussion on Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (August 30, 1994)
  4. ^ Kathy's comment in Even Today Dinosaurs Roam The Earth Part III, a locked post dated September 9, 2012, quoted with permission.
  5. ^ Michelle Christian. RPS, Boybands, and Dead Guy RPS posted 06/21/03 at Fanfic Symposium (accessed 3 Jan 2010)
  6. ^ Justine. I Don't Believe in Real People posted 03/04/03 at Fanfic Symposium (accessed 3 Jan 2010)
  7. ^ Confessor and Seeker Society, Archived version, a Legend of the Seeker community had a rule stating that Fan art celebrating the actors as cute co-workers is fine, manipping them into lewd and suggestive poses is not. Access 2 Jan 2023
  8. ^ from Strange Bedfellos (APA) #16 (February 1997)
  9. ^ from The K/S Press #35
  10. ^ from DIAL #18
  11. ^ from DIAL #19
  12. ^ from The K/S Press #66
  13. ^ Comment at CI5hq, Archived version by byslantedlight. Posted 27 July 2006.
  14. ^ from The K/S Press #145
  15. ^ from Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Alayne Gelfand
  16. ^ [F D], comments on Zinelist, August 24, 2016, quoted on Fanlore with [F D's] permission