Image Attribution

(Owlet header image found via a Google Image search, and came from Etsy artist Bestiary Ink)

17 August 2011

Regarding Overuse of Photoshop in the Media

The matter of overly-Photoshopped images in the media isn't a new one, but a few recent instances garnered enough of a widespread reaction that I think it's worth discussing, from both an ethical and an artistic perspective. Today, Go Fug Yourself posted a (stupendous!) rant chastising Vogue magazine for over-"fixing" a supposed group shot of the cast of Glee for the sake of photographic styling perfection. Here's the result:

(here's the post)
Among GFY's criticisms is this well-crafted point: "Look, I get that coordinating a shoot like this is probably a logistical clusterf…er, fiasco, but I also would just like to suggest that Vogue would be well-advised to be sensitive to the fact that they aren’t exactly known for featuring women of color and it might be in their best interests to make an effort to highlight the diversity of Glee‘s cast. Especially because Vogue is becoming increasingly obsolete for the sort of woman who used to read it regularly: AKA people who like outfits in general but who aren’t Eating-Breathing-Sleeping Fashion."

Furthermore, criticism of excessive photo editing has long-warned of the potential influence such images have on many young people. Considering how much of magazines' consumer base is made up of young women in the 15-25 age bracket, how dangerous is it to present an image of idealized unattainable perfection that doesn't actually exist. The flaws and faults and mistakes of fashion photography -- or really, of photography in general -- could be what makes an image actually amazing and inspiring. And it could be what makes a little girl realize that her big nose or her asymmetrical ears or her curves are the most beautiful thing about her.

At the end of July, the UK was in the news for banning advertisements that have been deceptively over-edited. Notably, L'Oréal's Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington ads (for Lancôme and Maybelline respectively) were refused face-time for being excessively air-brushed.

(Julia Roberts' ad campaign for L'Oréal's Lancôme, via The Guardian)
Yes, advertisers have routinely touched-up models' images for ads, but how far is too far? Britain's Advertising Standards Authority called the ads "misleading" and an "exaggeration."

I, for one, believe we've lost some perspective here. As I already said, I believe there is extraordinary beauty in the flaws and the mistakes--both the ones we are born with or develop due to life, and the ones that occur by chance because a photograph captures what happened. Often, with photography, my very favorite elements in an image are those "moments" around the subject - the what-just-happened-to-occur-or-be-there.

And beyond the shameful modification of the art itself, the distortion of reality that has become increasingly commonplace in some advertising and even editorial media carries, as I've said, potentially dangerous implications. How about this 2009 Ralph Lauren ad campaign (left) image of model Filippa Hamilton, beside a catwalk snapshot of her "real" body:

After public outrage, the fashion house apologized for the retouching, but clearly that hasn't translated into a bigger lesson learned.

Remember when Madonna's pre-Photoshop Dolce and Gabbana campaign images were leaked last fall?



(both Madonna images via here)
I worry that these are examples of a growing trend in which we've crossed over from editing into lying. And frankly, if this is the case, then I find this growing trend despicable. Not only that, but I think those responsible should be professionally embarrassed. Given the successful advancement of technological techniques and resources, how is it even possible that these professionals could believe the public wouldn't notice grotesquely obvious modifications and replacements in images. I'm an editor, and when I catch even the slightest typo post-production, I am mortified. If my name or hands are on something, then I want it to reflect the best of me, not the worst.

As one comment on the GFY post points out, "All I can see are those little spaces between Chris [Colfer]’s legs and Heather [Morris]’s legs that are a totally different colour than the rest of the background. Why are magazines getting worse at Photoshop rather than better?" How did that slip through?! Shouldn't someone get fired or at least dinged in their HR file for an oversight like that?

I know this is an unusual post for me here on Owlet, as I generally like to keep it light and even silly. But I am a lover of fashion and all things media, and I hold a Master's degree in print and multimedia journalism, and I am profoundly disturbed when I see things like this. On the other hand, I am profoundly encouraged when I see these things called out. So to the UK and to GFY and to all the others who have called these outlets and advertisers to task, I say Hear! Hear! We need to hear more of this outcry.

What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. for real...where is Mercedes? And WHY do those girls have on so much makeup? Is Finn standing 100 feet back or is his head really that small? and on and on and on. Yuck.