It used to be you could trust a photograph to show you a factual representation of a source or subject. But not anymore! Why? One word: Photoshop. I confess, I am a Photoshopper. Any photo of me that touches my computer gets “fixed:” teeth whitened, color corrected, blemishes banished. But magazines and advertisers go a lot further than that. They use Photoshop to take an existing image and turn it into something that not only doesn’t exist, but sometimes can’t possible exist.
For example, Ralph Lauren caused a controversy last year over this image of an impossibly proportioned model (her shoulders are wider than her hips!):
Before that, Redbook caused a stir with a heavily retouched cover shot of Faith Hill. More recently, ads featuring Demi Moore and Julia Roberts have been so heavily altered that it’s hard to tell that these already beautiful women are even human.
Not even Betty White is immune! She’s 88 years old and they’ve removed all her wrinkles. Is it no longer acceptable for an 88-year-old woman to have wrinkles?
In a world where women are expected to aspire to beauty ideals, these types of images create an even more unattainable idea of the beauty norm. (Though if you can find me an actual adult human woman whose shoulders are wider than her hips, I’ll consider a retraction.) We’re constantly bombarded with images of women who are impossibly thin, ageless, and devoid of imperfection. How can any woman feel comfortable in her own skin surrounded by this crap?
Fortunately, the wide exposure of recent years has started a backlash and is – slowly – beginning a movement in opposition. Jessica Simpson famously posed for the cover of Marie Claire with no makeup and no retouching a few months ago. (And if you ask me, she looks fantastic.) And now a UK department store is openly displaying before- and after-Photoshop shots of a swimsuit model in their stores:
It’s a refreshing move, but there’s still a long way to go. The truth is that Photoshop is never going away. It will always be used to clean up flyaway hairs and blemishes and correct color at the very least (and you can pry my copy from my cold, dead hands!). But until the fashion and beauty industries scale back the usage to those parameters we’re going to have to treat every image we see with skepticism. Jezebel has a really interesting gallery of Photoshopped images here. Check it out and see just how much you’re being fooled.