The case against retouching seems to be the “in” story these days. Not only have I come across numerous articles recently, but my friend Natalie just sent me a whole slew I hadn’t seen. (Image of ultra thin Ralph Lauren model sparks outrage, Jessica Simpson in Marie Claire: No Makeup, No Retouching?, French Elle’s No Makeup Issue) And celebs are weighing in too. Terri Hatcher recently opened herself up to ridicule when she participated in the debate with posts of her untouched bathroom portrait shots — veins, wrinkles, sallow skin and all.
With increasingly sophisticated photography software, I guess it makes sense that the more we retouch, the more we get appalled by it. It portrays unrealistic images that can negatively influence girls. They grow up thinking they must look as unnaturally skinny, flawless and coiffed as the models they see in magazines.
I totally get this point. Whether or not I admit it to myself, picture after picture of tall, gorgeous women imprint an image of perfection in my mind. So when I think my thighs are too fat, I’m probably comparing them to those of the photoshopped gals in magazines. And the last thing I want is for my daughter to develop any issues with her self-esteem because of fantastical pics she may happen to thumb through.
On the other hand, as someone who creates “images” for all types of things — food, beauty products, household appliances — I recognize the need to portray these products in the best light possible. We shoot this stuff with special lighting and place them “just so.” We retouch the color in post production and heighten the texture of every ingredient. So shouldn’t the same liberties be applied to fashion? Shouldn’t these products be allowed present their wares in the best possible way, i.e., with models who look, well, unbelievable?
Moreover, magazines aren’t cataloges. What they’re really selling is a fantasy. So when we look at a glamorous fashion spread, do we honestly want to see models au natural — zits, cellulite, stray grays, and lopsided eyes included?
Maybe the answer is to try to do spread the word that these models don’t really look as they do in the magazines. We know that movies are imaginary and, thus, suspend our disbelief when we indulge in them. If we saw fashion/beauty photography as art, as make believe, and not as reality, perhaps that would help alleviate the constant comparison that girls make.