Friday, October 9, 2009

Impossibly beautiful but in your face

How can I respond to this Facebook request from a high school friend in a thoughtful, constructive and feminist way?

Photoshop the Ugly out of your pictures

Hello all, I'm working on a project right now where I want to
show my skills retouching photos in Photoshop. I need some before photos so I
can make some lovely afters. So it would be awesome if you could send me photos
that you have that could use some free retouching. I'm looking for photos that

Acne, wrinkles, arm fat, tan lines, etc. that you would like

old photos that have dust spots, scratches, smudges, etc.
bad lighting
a sign or some small object removed

I could even do fun things like maybe add some bling to you,
add a new hair do, give you more muscle definition, put your face on a hot
ladies body, whatever you wish, just let me know.

I know this woman from high school and she was calling herself a feminist before I was. I know she works in graphic design, but how can I explain (in a context on Facebook) what exactly my issues are with her work? Any ideas, Impersonators?


Amelia said...

I know that retouching is a valuable skill to have as a graphic designer/photographer, but utilizing that skill only helps contribute to an impossible standard of beauty that is pervasive and detrimental to the emotional/physical well-being of women.

To explain this on Facebook, you might try focusing on how retouching is like lying. If you take away someone's wrinkles or you remove their "arm fat" it's like taking away part of who they were at the moment the photo was taken. Yeah, they might not exactly be living up to society's standards of attractiveness, but those standards are pretty much impossible anyway.

My general standing when it comes to photos, and especially in regard to retouching them, is that they are supposed to be a visual record of a specific moment in time. Changing the way one's physical appearance in a photo is just like lying.

Other types of retouching, like fixing contrast so that the photo is clearer, or other such adjustments, are not so problematic. They don't change the overall meaning of the photo, and they don't contribute to the problematic beauty standard that is applied to people in photos in this age of Photoshop.

Saranga said...

I think Amelia makes a good point re the lying aspect of retouched photos.

You could also say that you don't consider arm fat, wrinkles etc as something ugly that needs to be removed. Say you are surprised because of her feminst leanings at school and ask how she reconciles these things. do it in a friendly way and it doesn't have to be rude.
keep it open, be curious and willing to discuss it with her.

Anonymous said...

Well, the difficulty with Amelia's logic, I think, is that to some extent almost all photos are lies to begin with. Unless they're TRULY candids, people will have at the very least known of the possibility that a camera would be involved at x special event and dressed nicer/put on more makeup/had their hair done, and that's before you even think about posing photos!

So, I guess Amelia's argument depends on what type of photos they are to begin with!

Amelia said...


Although it is true that people do choose to present themselves in certain ways when they know of the possibility of a camera being present, this sort of manipulation is self-done, and it doesn't contribute (to the same extent) to the problem of an unrealistic standard of beauty, which is a large part of the reason I have a problem with Photoshopping photos to begin with.

Anonymous said...

Cool skill 1: Removing the lamp post or vehicle that's growing out of somebody's head (in the background).

Cool skill 2: Removing a person from the photograph.

Cool skill 3: Adding open eyes onto the person whose image was captured mid-blink.

rae333 said...

Ok, as a graphic designer myself I can say that it is nearly impossible to keep your career in graphic design without changing people's looks. Obviously yes the change needs to start someplace but unless you have the finances to start this body image revolution its not going to happen. I personally dont make people skinnier but i will remove wrinkles and acne. I am i firm believer of natural beauty but I also dont want to stare at gaping pimples in a photo that will last forever on my parents wall.