Thursday, 25 February 2010

Airbrushing...harmless?


Tali's fantastic post on weight and age issues surrounding models in the fashion industry made me think some more about appearance and what kind of images are being projected to women on a daily basis in adverts and magazines. I just wanted to touch on airbrushing in the media and give some opinions on it and also to hear what you guys think about this subject. Whether you agree or disagree, all comments are welcome!

In some way or another, over the course of human history, women's appearance has been altered for artistic means. Painters often altered the dimensions of their subjects to create a more beautiful image that was fashionable during that era.

It seems that the manipulation of the female form in art or media continues to this day, however, things have got a lot more technical with the introduction of intricate airbrushing in the last couple of decades. But with all these 'improvements' being made to photographs of models and celebrities, it begs the question...where do we draw the line?

A lot of politicians have expressed the opinion that airbrushed photographs should be banned in material targeted at under-16's in order to protect their health and self-esteem. To me, this really makes sense because teenagers are particularly susceptible to feelings of depression and low self-esteem and I don't think that idolising images of women with unattainable features is healthy. The majority of images we see nowadays have been doctored in one way or another and sometimes people end up looking completely different.

Images of Twiggy for Olay face cream and Jessica Alba for a Campari advert have both been criticised in the newspapers for being heavily airbrushed before publication. In the case of Twiggy, a lot of lines and wrinkles had been removed and Jessica Alba was made to look slimmer (as if she needed that!). The brands know that the average woman will compare herself to these images and aspire to reach the heights that this kind of 'digital' beauty demands...the only problem being that it's not real!

There are exceptions to the rule though and I recently learned that Michelle Mone, the creator of Ultimo lingerie, launched the advertising campaign featuring Peaches Geldof with un-doctored photographs, and she strongly believes that other brands should follow her more ethical lead. She was quoted as saying "A lot of adults appreciate how far images are digitally enhanced, but we need to protect younger generations, because these are the images they're striving to emulate. My daughter is only 16 years old and I would hate to think that she feels unnecessary pressure to be picture-perfect, when a lot of images have been Photoshopped to death. The problem is, it has become acceptable to airbrush to ridiculous lengths. Alot of people no longer know what a woman's body looks like, which is why, with our latest Miss Ultimo campaign featuring Peaches Geldof, we made sure that her natural curves and her tattoos were in there - all the intricacies that make her a beautiful young woman".

Speaking as an 'average' woman I know myself that it's hard not to look at digitally enhanced photographs of models and celebs and not feel a little bit inadequate. But, what scares me is that these images are causing young girls to chase the illusion of a flawless appearance. I strive to achieve a flawless appearance through the use of makeup but to me, cosmetics are for enhancing your natural features, NOT completely changing them beyond all recognition.


Kate Winslet was famously outraged at GQ magazine when her photos were enhanced before they appeared on the cover. GQ's editor, Dylan Jones, said the photographs had been "highly styled, buffed, trimmed and altered...to make the subject look as good as humanly possible". Kate Winslet made it clear to GQ magazine and the media that she was not consulted about the digital alterations made afterwards to lengthen her legs and flatten her stomach and she certainly did not advocate it. Go Kate!

Everyone wants to look good and it's natural to want to project the best 'version' of yourself. But when photos of models and celebs, who are already absolutely beautiful in their natural state, are being modelled on the media's perception of what is attractive and desirable, well, I think there needs to be a line drawn. I don't blame the celebs, as a lot of the time, magazines digitally enhance photos without their say so. I think society's overall perception of what is beautiful needs to be re-assessed.

Do you think that images should include a warning detailing what has been altered to promote more honesty about what has been retouched or do you think it would ruin the magic?

9 comments:

  1. I am a Photoshop wizard ! lol so I know that everything is retouched when I say everything I mean EVERYTHING ! I worked with models that weren't really attractive and with some good makeup and Photoshop TA DAH They became FANTASTIC! and this is exactly the same with Celebrities ! Nobody is Perfect...<3

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  2. it's such an interesting topic. ^^

    nobody's perfect at all but the demand to look 'perfect' is so high!
    It's really sad. :(

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  3. I agree, its a shame they do this as a lot of young girls might even know they airbrush but not to what extent (i.e. quite a lot is airbrushed out by the looks of that Kim K picture) it's a shame really but I doub't everyone is going to stop doing it x

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  4. L'oreal bleaching out Beyonce's skin to make it lighter really disgusted me: see here

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  5. I touched on a similar subject for my dissertation, which focused on the portrayal of women in lads' mags (which is also horrendously harmful to women). A book which explores this topic further is 'The Beauty Myth' by Naomi Wolf which I really recommend. I wish it would be banned.

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  6. I think airbrushing is acceptable in the case of getting rid of a fee pimples etc, but magazines are just taking it much too far! xx

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  7. @Hollywood - I get what you're saying but if I had a photoshopped pic of myself, I would just feel like it didn't represent the real me. But that's just my personal opinion. I like imperfections in people. For example, I love the scar my fiance has on his top lip, it gives him character and I like that.

    @Risyaa - I just feel sorry for the young kids because it seems to be getting worse and worse...god knows what it will be like when they become teenagers. I just think people need to learn that beauty isn't all about bein immaculate.

    @Sarah - I think you're right that they won't stop because the beauty industry hinges on people aspiring to be like someone else, so they want the standards to remain sky high so we keep buying products to make us look more beautiful.

    @Laura - I heard about that before and it's awful that that was ever allowed to happen. Brands need to send out the message to be proud of who you are!

    @Amy - The book sounds interesting, I like reading about society's attitude to these types of things.

    @India - I know what you mean about airbrushing spots, I think that's acceptable, but when they start to change the shape of someone's body or airbrushing out freckles, changing teeth etc, it's going too far

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  8. I think companies should stop seeing the consumers as numpties who can't work out for themselves that the photos have been altered and that as a consequence the virtues of the product advertised are not just as they picture it !

    Thumbs up to Debenhams starting to put size 16 and disabled models in the window display. It's about time companies realised that the world out there is just not as they're trying to picture it.

    One thing though... although a lot of people (and I do agree) think that airbrushing has bad consequences on people that are growing up and need to learn to feel comfortable in their own skin, sometimes I do think maybe there's still hope in me becoming a model ! I might not be the best shape, I might not have the best complexion, but surely they can alter all that and give me a chance !! I don't care what the final product is as long as I get the money !

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  9. It's a shame that we as women have unrealistic expectations to live up to. It really does cause an affect on everyone..women feel as though they are never going to be good enough (hense our obsessions with weight loss, makeup, fashion and relationships) and men are putting expectations too high all based on this unrealistic fake pedistal the media puts these women on. Have you seen the recent runway pics at fashion week? I mean they need to have an intervention at fashion week for Anorexia! I have linked this post on my page..Great post!

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