I have met very few people who truly live by the motto “I don’t care what I look like, and I don’t care what other people think of my appearance.” It was easy proclaiming this as a “rebellious” teenager in junior high trying to break the stereotype of ascribing to certain characteristics to fit in with a certain group of a certain look. But the thing is, NO ONE REALLY FEELS THAT WAY. I mean, the mere act of dressing in a certain way to rebel against a stereotype is in and of itself a means of dressing to cause a specific reaction. What I’m trying to get at here is that image is important. And all the more so with today’s modern conveniences where phones have cameras and images can be transmitted to public viewers around the world in a matter of seconds.
If it weren’t enough to be under constant watch of a photographic lens in every possible situation, there’s the added degree of digital Photoshopping and photo alterations that can send mixed messages about the subject of the photo. When it comes down to it, the results of excessive Photoshopping reveal our value of image as a society. What makes a photo editor cut away at someone’s jawline or add shadows to a portion of the thigh in order to “enhance” a photo? We are a body-conscious culture so much so that how we portray beauty does more to promote body-negative attitudes than anything else.
Take, for example, the most recent cover of Vogue Magazine. Adele, who is beautiful and talented in her own right, appears on the cover and is almost unrecognizable due to the angles, lighting and clear over-use of photo-alteration programs. As an artist who has been asked about how she views her self-image as a celebrity on multiple occasions, it’s disheartening to see a news outlet portray her in a way that is untrue to her as an artist and subject of the magazine’s cover story. This kind of portrayal has not come without criticism from other news organizations.
On the other hand, there are others who see this problem with modern photography and advertising. In 2009, Brad Pitt appeared on the cover of W Magazine with untouched photographs taken by Chuck Close. As a rejection of how most photo shoots airbrush out the flaws of the subject matter, Pitt requested that the photos run without any kind of enhancement.
Photo editors may not realize it, but the decisions they make in portraying the icons and artists of our day transmit messages to those who look up to said celebrities and affect how they view themselves. In its most basic form, individuals take into account how they are perceived physically to the world around them in photographic form. Writer Brianne Garcia wrote about how social media has affected how she presents herself to the online world, no doubt in some way or another framed by how she views photos of highly publicized figures of today and how those altered photos demonstrate our perception of appearance.
It’s easy to laugh off really bad Photoshop jobs as misguided marketing ploys and even worse judgment of photo program usage. But if we’re going to use advertising tools that also prevent the public from viewing reality for what it really is in appearance, then that’s when things go eschew and problems with body image arise. I mean, if public figures who have passed can’t even escape the airbrush wand for a cover story, what hope is there for the rest of us?