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The mortal perils of “ditching” Photoshop

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Since I have no subscription to French Marie Claire (that would be kinda pointless since I don’t read French), I have just learned about the whole 100%-digitally-unretouched stunt they pulled on their April 2010 issue.

With all the brouhaha concerning fashion magazines across the world and their proclivity for transforming wrinkly old frogs into ravishing princesses, bigwigs at MC probably thought, “Hey, zis would be a fantastique way to get zee attention of everyone,” and then went back to eating ratatouille, or perhaps wiggly, barely alive snails.

Marie Claire April 2010But you know what? It did. However, people still can’t make up their minds whether the issue is brilliance in 200 pages or an utter waste of dead trees and printing supplies.

Initially, people would think it’s a great idea and give props to Marie Claire for being so sensitive to their readers’ lack of self-esteem. But if people would just look a little deeper into it, they’d realise they’d been taken for a ride.

In a recent article on the Benjamin Kanarek Blog titled Retouching… Much Ado About Nothing, Fashion-Beauty Director Frédérique Renaut exposes that while digital enhancements were not done on everything in the issue, except the advertisements, we shouldn’t be too confident that what we see in there are in any way raw or authentic representations of the people in question.

Why? Because decades before Photoshop, a manual method of retouching photos to promote ethereal beauty and ravage the last remaining ounce of your self-confidence (or so people with issues say) had already been practiced in the publishing world. *Gasp!*

“Turning the pages of the April issue of French Marie Claire, I see that the photographers had to use the old techniques before Photoshop existed: Burning out the skin using overexposure, soft light, adding a half blue filter to whiten the skin, pulled back images, large smile’s for celebrities so their nasal labial folds are hidden, pulled back hair with hands stretching the skin and smoothing the wrinkles, using grainy film and converting the images to black and white to neutralize the skin tones.”

Frédérique Renaut, Fashion-Beauty Director at the Benjamin Kanarek Blog

Technically, Marie Claire is correct. They didn’t use Photoshop and they didn’t outright lie. However, to say such a thing, when the majority of people are under the impression that Photoshop is the only way a photograph can be manipulated, is actually kind of deceiving. And you know, in most societies, morals dictate that deceiving is bad. Borderline evil, even.

But that’s not the issue here. I am not opposed to enhancing images, because, firstly, I see fashion publishing as more of an artistic exercise than a genuine depiction of reality, and so always expect something in the issue to have been beautified before the magazine went to press. Secondly, nobody takes fashion magazines as seriously as they do the New York Times. Or at least, nobody should. Because that’s just naive. (My evil old-fashioned alterego would even give a pointy DUNCE hat to anyone who does. And then point at them and laugh hysterically like they were the funniest thing that ever walked the earth.)

My point is, I want to see beautiful things and beautiful people in my magazines. I don’t want real. I see real all the time and I’m thankful for fashion magazines because they are an escape. It’s not all about the aesthetics, though. With Photoshop in the picture, readers have an inkling of the digital retouching that inevitably happens in the process. They don’t believe that the people who grace the pages are as perfect as they are shown. And so they don’t feel so miserable that they are not flawless like the celebrities, because they know nobody is – not even the celebrities themselves.

Taking Photoshop out of the equation but allthewhile substituting it with traditional techniques unbeknownst to the average Jane, on the other hand, will scare the bejeezus out of anyone who lays eyes on the wrinkle-free, immaculate-complexioned, 36-24-36 subjects of these digitally raw photos even more.

Maryam bin Shakira Al Fashionista is going to think, “How do these people manage to look like Aphrodite on botox without Photoshop?! I’m doomed for all eternity! Khalas!” Frankly, I think Marie Claire’s stunt has done more damage than if they had just let Photoshop continue its existence as an open secret.

That’s all.


Don’t you think it’s kind of ironic that advertisements in Marie Claire’s April 2010 issue were left out and not subjected to the “Photoshop-free” idea? Wouldn’t you expect more truth in advertising than in fashion editorials? I mean, these are what call on us to part with our money. Wouldn’t we want people we’re buying from to not lie to us?


  1. Lucy

    April 22, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    You make a valid point. No photoshop is simply unthinkable. Even politicians for election campaign posters get generously photoshopped. As for fashion, its primary vocation is to create desire and make us dream.The rest is more about education and critical attitude. How many consumers of fashion are capable thereof? I say yes to dream and desire, no to lies.
    You all must have seen Modanna’s pics for Louis Vuitton au naturel and as they appeared in the ad.
    Comparing the two you want to say everything is good in moderation

  2. Jim

    April 23, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    As I always say, fashion is not about normal, it’s about aspirational. If you keep seeing normal, then what’s going to push you to want to look better, right? Am I going to lose my self-esteem and kill myself because I saw some retouched photos of perfectly proportioned celebrities in fashion magazines? No. So the fuss about Photoshop has got to stop.

    And Marie Claire should stop turning it into a stunt to ring more sales.

  3. JESSU

    April 30, 2010 at 12:01 am

    I think it’s one thing to not photoshop or “beautify” celebrities or celebrity figures, and another to not beautify models. I read a fashion magazine for inspiration, which usually comes in the form of beautiful artsy pictures of beautiful models in beautiful and extravagant clothing. I don’t want this to change.

    However, I do recognize that girls/women are influenced by celebrities (whom they LOVE, or regard as ROLEMODELS) and thus those people should not be beautified so that they no longer resemble themselves (i.e. Demi Moore’s cover).
    .-= JESSU´s last blog ..The Morning After a Day and a Night of Withdrawal Symptoms…. =-.

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  5. vinda

    April 30, 2010 at 6:31 am

    you make great points here. i really enjoy reading this. i think photoshop is okay, as long as things are not too far manipulated that they resemble the true people no more. fashion magazines should always show people the version of enhanced reality, like you said, an escape. we see too many ordinary things irl already. ditching photoshop is not a good idea, imo.
    thanks for sharing this amazing view!
    .-= vinda´s last blog ..april feature: the dorty heir. =-.

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  10. Lyddiegal

    May 1, 2010 at 8:23 am

    the idea of not using photoshop and showing people just as they really are sounds like a brilliant one – but to just use alternate means of camera trickery sounds like a waste of a ‘photoshop free’ issue!
    .-= Lyddiegal´s last blog ..Venice =-.

  11. Jim

    May 1, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    @JESSU, you raise an interesting point. I guess in our celebrity-obsessed pop culture, fashion magazines should make a distinction between supermodels, who are beacons of pure unadulterated beauty, and celebrities, who hold a much stronger clout over people who follow them. I agree that it does a lot more damage (more intensity to the whole play on people’s self-esteem) if readers see their celebrities all 36-24-36 and are told that no digital manipulation has been performed on the images, than if the same thing concerned models.

    @Vinda, agreeing with Jefferson Hack during his recent interview with Business of Fashion, I’d say fashion magazines offer us a window to another world, a beautiful, alternate reality where people are enhanced and we just don’t care.

    @Lyddiegal, not just a waste of an issue, of paper, or printing materials, of advertising dollars, but also an insult to readers who assume nothing really has been done augment splashed across the pages of the magazine. Pardon my French, but that’s a mindf*ck right there.

    Thanks for sharing your views, y’all!
    .-= Jim´s last blog ..Vintage galore – 15 retro frocks by ModCloth =-.

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  15. Eli

    August 12, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    For the most part(that about Marie Claire screaming for attention and advertisements’ retouches) you’re right, but I have serious doubts that the young(and not so young) readers of magazines don’t take it for granted that models look like that in real life. It isn’t right to show images of unearthly creatures. Literally. This influences the way girls form their standards in real life, you can’t get away with simply saying that anyone who does take those images as they are is a dunce. And besides, I really want to know why is there the need to use photoshop on girls who already look good enough? If Madonna wants to be on a cover – ok, retouch her, she’s old and wrinkled, but a 20-year old girl looks good enough without the help of any retouch.
    For me, photoshop has become an excuse for some photographers to stop taking good pictures, they have stopped trying to bring out the best of a girl, which is what beauty photography ought to do. And why bother when you have photoshop and it’ll get any mess right…
    If I want aliens in my magazine – than straight to the sci-fi bookstore. In magazines I want real beauty, emphasis on real…

    • fred perry clothing

      May 7, 2011 at 12:45 am

      I read a fashion magazine for inspiration, which usually comes in the
      form of beautiful artsy pictures of beautiful models in beautiful and
      extravagant clothing. I don’t want this to change.

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  18. Anonymous

    July 3, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    en I think that photoshop is very useful…and funny for us ………

  19. lacoste outlet

    July 4, 2011 at 9:01 am

    PS is an important tech. for all of us, u know what i mean~

  20. Anonymous

    July 4, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    “ditching” Photoshop en I think it is very interesting.>>> HAHA

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