Pictures Never Lie… Or Do They?

15 Aug

Most of us, we snap our pictures, send them to the local Walgreens and have new prints in our hands within an hour. The pictures we take are the pictures we get back. If Bobby has a mole on the side of his nose when we take the picture, he has a mole on the side of his nose in the print we get. If Martha is putting on a little weight during the family snapshot, she continues to carry that weight in the photo. Throughout the aeons (or decades rather) we mere mortals were stuck with reality, at least in regards to our photos. But magazines were never satisfied with reality. Customers and consumers, in America, at least, expect perfection from their media stars. There is only so much one can do with hair stylists and makeup artists. There is only some much one can do with posing techniques to hide or minimize this or that. For decades professional studios air brushing was the answer to fixing the flaws in their models. Who can count the amount of paint spread over the photos of actresses and models over the years.

With the advent of Photoshop the game changed. With each successive release, it becomes easier to performing tasks that were almost impossible decades ago. Before, what took years of skill to master now becomes routine tasks that most photographers , with a little bit of computer skill, can do in minutes. As we demand physical perfection in our movie and media stars and technology makes it easier to make sure that a photo of anybody can achieve that level of perfection.

I am not such a purist that I rail against covering pimples, whitening teeth and removing stray hairs in my portrait subjects. After all there are a number of things that interfere with a good photographic representation of a person. But what is occurring are physical standards that are set which are physically impossible for them to occur in nature, namely the size of women’s hips. This is nothing new as far as having standards which are impossible to fulfill as the ancients all had ideas of perfect human proportions which they used for art. But with the photography, we no longer look at figures in sculpture and paint as physical ideals, but physical reality. Women (and to some degree, men) look at women in these photos and assume that unblemished skin, the full lips, the vibrant eyes, etc, etc. is actually representative of that person in everyday life. But that could not be further from the truth. Undoubtedly there are a few that have the look, the skin and the body that comes close to those ideals, but even those people are not safe from being savaged by the hands of Photoshop artists.

My point is not to get into some discussion about women’s self-image, media using sex to sell products or anything along those topics. Rather, my intent is it show and to make people realize that they should not expect to what they see in and on magazines to reflect any sort of reality. Nor, should they expect ANY picture to reflect reality (more on that subject later).

Now for some examples. The following video shows, through the power of time-lapse a woman of mediocre looks transformed through the magic of makeup, hair styling and Photoshop into a gorgeous woman.

The picture below is from a Ralph Lauren ad wherein they modified this woman’s hips to the point of physical impossibility. I am not exaggerating, the proportion of head to hips is not possible, biologically speaking.

Ralph Lauren Model

A model with impossibly small hips.

Below shows how the face of a famous person was transplanted on to the (bizarre) body of a model for an advertisement.

Woman with transplanted face

Woman with transplanted face

Even senators are not immune from some major touch ups. Witness a rather recent cover shot for a rather old Nancy Pelosi.

Nancy Pelosi Photoshop

Nancy Pelosi never looked so good.

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Posted by on August 15, 2010 in Musings


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