Friday, April 1, 2011

Let's Talk: Photoshop

So I woke up this morning, took care of some errands, and decided to spend a few leisurely moments on the Internet. I often check out what's at Jezebel (you bet I've got the old layout activated), and today one of the posts was about more Photoshop mishaps over at Ann Taylor's website.

Now there's the obvious mistake: the missing arm. Admittedly, I probably wouldn't notice it, at least at first, as I browsed the online catalog, but a missing arm is a pretty silly mistake. That, to me, indicates a certain degree of carelessness, but not something to actively sound the alarms over.

What did bother me immensely was when I scrolled down to look at the comments. One reads:

"In any case, the way her torso appears to be shaved down is more problematic, no? In the pink photo, the same model looks believably (healthily) slim; in the blue, she's as stretched and skinny Olive Oyl. I worry far more about young women aspiring to extreme thinness as a standard of beauty than to amputation. (Or maybe I'm behind the curve, and that's the next trend.)"

Wait, what? I scrolled back up to look at the photos in question. In case you're feeling lazy this Friday morning, here's a side-by-side comparison.

I have to at least partially agree: the photos of this model-- who is clearly the same woman-- look significantly different. In blue, she appears to have a much longer, slimmer torso, and I don't know if that's necessarily because her shirt is untucked. I mean, this could just be the magic of angles and maybe she hasn't been stretched in the photo at left, but either way it got me thinking about the instances of Photoshop that I never seem to notice. As an adult woman in modern society, I do know that everything I see in any kind of media is Photoshopped, but sometimes when the cases aren't so terrible, they slip quietly under the radar. And for me, I think those subtle changes are what we really need to be worried about. It's easy to explain that perfectly poreless skin is the result of digital airbrushing. It's easy to notice the manipulations when you see a woman on the cover of a magazine looking slightly unlike herself and more like a plastic doll. But when the changes a just a slight stretch upward and a bit of torso-slimming, it's harder to catch and easier for those changes to infiltrate our body images.

Now, I have nothing against thin women. I get the sense that many times, in an effort to feel better about ourselves and to reject the truly awful things the media tries to do to us, we turn skinny people into villains working for The Man, and they're not. I think women of all shapes and sizes are beautiful in their own way-- even if their looks don't suit my personal beauty preferences as a straight woman. There certainly are women with long, very slender torsos, but I'm not exactly sure this model is one of them-- not to the degree she is in the left photo. And that's damaging no matter how close your body is to matching the aesthetic ideal. For me, the slight tweaks speak volumes:

You are not okay, you are not okay, you would be so pretty if, they intone. 

But let's talk.

What do you think about Photoshop? Are you good at spotting it? Do you think it influences your body image? Have you ever digitally manipulated a photo of yourself for Facebook, Myspace, etc.? Why or why not? And of course, do you think the above example is subtle Photoshop or a really flattering shirt/camera angle?


Samantha said...

Oh Photoshop how I love to hate it, but I very much agree that it is a bit scary what is being done to photos of women and contributing to the ideal of what we should look like. Most of the times I don't spot the mishaps (like the missing arm), but I always see when someone is shaved down a size or 5 and their skin is so overly touched up that they look plastic. I think what scares me even more is that about half of my friends photoshop all of their photos before putting them on Facebook. I'm not talking about removing a blemish, but going all out to the point that I don't recognize them.

Sarah said...

TO be honest, I never trust any media photo that i've seen (unless it's the papparazzi ones where they clearly can't be bothered to catch the person looking good let alone alter the image). So, i always assume that photos have been photoshopped massively.

When I'm looking at images in the media I always make a mental effort to admire women of all shapes and sizes rather than compare or wish for their body (although, saying that, I would love to have bigger boobs so I try to eat more chocolate than usual when I can be bothered :)).

D. said...

I think this is just an example of a flattering shirt, because I have shirts that make me look slimmer.

Either way, I don't pay that much attention to photos anymore, I have in the back of my mind that I am not like those girls, and that I shouldn't care about that.

Anonymous said...

I have manipulated pictures of myself for things like skin flaws or to make myself look skinnier. My pictures are for memories, and I want to remember myself in the best light possible, even if it's stretching the truth a bit. I think it helps with my self-esteem... after a while, I don't remember what the original picture looked like and when I see the pictures, I just think to myself, "I look lovely" instead of "I HATE the way I look and these pictures makes me feel terrible about myself."

I'll do the same for my friends, especially if I'm posting them online. I don't want my friends looking at the pictures and think about how terrible they think they look. I want them to see who I see: beautiful. I don't mind using Photoshop for this purpose.

Laells said...

In my opinion she looks like she might actually have that long torso but they trimmed a little bit off the sides.

I try my best to ignore the negativity of the media for the most part. When I worked in the mall my kiosk was right in front of La Senza where they'd have big six foot posters with sexy women in cute panty sets and impossibly gorgeous bodies. It would often get slow and I'd be stuck there staring at these posters for six hours. I'd just remind myself that no one's perfect, they are more than likely heavily photoshopped, and if they aren't that brings me back to square one where no one's perfect. Then I would make myself go find something to do and literally distract myself from it. I think awareness and forming opinions on this type of thing (or any topic that your passionate about or interests you) is great but I hate to let it lead to dwelling and bad moods too (which I sometimes do).


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