Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Pictures Lie

When I was a teenage girl I believed my face should have no visible pores, that my waist should be 18" around, that my nose should be tiny and delicate and that my cheekbones should be so high as to create deep shadows. Everyone in the magazines looked like that. I love this little film. I'm sure it's been making the rounds for a while, but even without educational tools like this, I think girls today are better informed. They are aware that models and celebrities have not only personal trainers, make-up artists, hair stylists and professional photographers creating their image - but also brilliant artists who can tweak every pore, slim every flaw away and remove any imperfection with the click of a mouse.

My work involves, among other things, touching up photographs. I don't work with beauty advertisements or magazine layouts. When I am touching up photographs it is usually on marketing materials for businesses and is as likely to involve removing an ill placed car from the front of a building as it is to require removing an unfortunate blemish from someone's face. But you cannot help but see how frighteningly open the possibilities are. I often spot imperfect photo retouching jobs - heads of celebrities pasted onto model bodies, thighs slimmed down by simply erasing inches from their sides, eyes enlarged and noses shrunk down... and while it is often obvious - the photos that show no visible sign of alteration aren't unaltered. Typically that just means that the work has been done very well. Considering what I do for a living, I am uncomfortably aware that it happens all the time.

I am all for the pursuit of beauty. With my obessively manicured fingernails, enormous collection of pigmented powders and glosses and wide array of 4" heels - I am clearly in thrall to my own ideal aesthetic. But I am also grounded and aware that only a computer will ever make me look like a supermodel. Which is how it should be. There is great beauty in our differences and in our flaws. Photo retouching results in a uniform and limited concept of beauty - alien and unattainable images of women with impossibly large eyes, plastic-smooth skin and giraffe-like necks.

No comments:

Post a Comment