The mortal perils of “ditching” Photoshop
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.
But 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.
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?