What Ellen Strenski has called the epistolary gift exchange aspect of e-mail fosters the trade of digital items of all kinds, particularly pictures with explicit political content. Many of these circulating images were initially Photoshopped by individual artisans and then widely disseminated via informal channels, such as e-mail or bulletin boards. For example, after the September 11th terrorist attacks, a collection of Photoshopped portraits and landscapes called "If the Taliban Wins" appeared in the mailboxes of friends and co-workers around the country. President Bush is probably the most currently Photoshopped subject, as "The Photoshopping of the President" in Salon.com has reported.
Now these gift exchanges frequently involve a new image technology: photo mosaics. Last year, Art of Resistance posted an image of President Bush composed of anuses and one of Rush Limbaugh comprised of prescription medications. Above, I have reproduced "War President," a recent likeness of President Bush made up of photographs of soldiers killed in Iraq. Some choose to focus on members of the Cabinet this way, as a Cheney of oil rigs and SUV's, a Rumsfeld made of Abu Gharab pictures, and a John Ashcroft made of pornographic pictures demonstrates.
These images have a prehistory in digital images of the Mona Lisa and of Lincoln and other ephemera from early digital culture. From my childhood, I remember novelty booths in which one could have one's picture taken and receive a portrait that was a computer print-out made up of ASCII characters as pixels.