Do you own a smartphone? Do you use it to post pictures? Do you ever use those things called “filters”? Or perhaps, for more advanced users, “image effects”, “saturation”, “exposure adjustment” or whatever your particular phone happens to call the photo tweaking tools? Yes? You do? Okay, then. Stop campaigning against and complaining about Photoshopped models being used in ads and magazine covers.
Here’s the deal. We go out of our way, even if it’s just a little bit, to present ourselves in the best possible light when we post pictures of ourselves online. [Light is both literal and metaphorical here.] What’s that? You don’t edit any of your pictures? Not a single saturation/contrast filter to be found? Ok, well do you post every single picture you take? Including the weird angles, accidental triple chins, and awkward facial expressions? Probably not. [If you do, then please stop reading. You are a true purist, who only presents the fully genuine, real, self online, and my hat goes off to you. Congrats. This blog post doesn’t apply to your way of life. I could never be you, I don’t think.]
My point is a pretty obvious one, I think. Celebrities, models, ad companies, and publications all have teams of people who’s sole purpose is to make the final product look good, whether it’s an ad or a vanity shot. That is their job, it’s what they are paid to do. We don’t. But we do have our own little team right in the palm of our hand, our smart phone. And we use this team, pretty frequently. It seems hypocritical to bemoan the fact that professionals essentially do what we do: edit pictures to make them look better. SURE, the pros do it to a much greater degree, but the intent and principle is pretty similar.
I’m not saying I agree with the final product that all of the professional photoshopping produces. I’m not here to argue for or against erasing inches off of thighs and changing skin tone by 4 shades. To me, that is more of a decision that belongs to the company producing the image. They want to present it a certain way; it’s up to them what that way is. As artists and business people making business decisions, they have a bit of a creative license to make things look how they want.
Yes, there is a gray area. Yes, extreme and constant photo editing has implication’s on society’s view of “beautiful”, “real”, and “normal”. There are certainly negatives side effects, I’m not arguing that. My point is simply that we do almost exactly the same thing, just on a much smaller scale.
So maybe, next time a “OHMYGOSH CAN YOU BELIEVE HOW PHOTOSHOPPED THIS PICTURE IS. THAT IS SO WRONG.” article/comment frenzy pops up, as it seems to every few weeks, chill. Instead of bravely crusading for more “real” pictures, understand and acknowledge the truth about ads and just about any published picture, online or printed: It is edited, and that is OKAY.
This is very true. In fact, when I took a digital photography class, my instructor taught us how to photoshop/GIMP people. I whitened teeth, got rid of redness around the eyes for older people, created more of a shadow under the chin line, etc. I don’t have the time or motivation to do this to the pictures I post, but I don’t see the harm in doing it either. I like to think of it as the same thing as putting on make up. I could blog about how it’s not fair that I have to walk around without a stitch of makeup on (due to being a Sister) when most women get to make themselves look prettier every day. Same concept, but I think a lot of people would miss the point….the point being exactly what you blogged about…that most of us are guilty of using enhancements to make us and others look better. And there’s nothing wrong with that….it makes us feel good. It’s like wearing a dress that is perfect. Sometimes the dress brings out the beauty in us….should we buy the frumpier one because the pretty one is somehow dishonest? Hardly! Makeup, pretty dresses, photoshop….they bring out the best in us.
Sr. Monica, thanks for reading and for the thoughtful comment! I love your perspective, and “bringing out the best” is a good attitude to have. I think the slippery slope starts when you can’t identify who is defining “best”. Are you making yourself feel good, or trying to fit into a mold defined by somebody else, for example, by photoshopped pictures. I think that’s where most people’s minds go right away when the topic of photoshop comes up. Can I ask the reason behind the no make up rule for sisters?
The no make up rule is because of our vow of poverty. Make up is so expensive, especially if you buy the good kind…now imagine buying make up for 300 Sisters. The exception is if a person has scars or other things on her face that embarrasses her personally, because that’s about dignity. Otherwise it’s seen as an extra possession, and we always strive for detachment. It would be far too easy to allow make up to possess us and not the other way around.