Thursday, May 28, 2009

Giving NYT Gold Star for 'No Photoshop' Article

I could've given the editor(s) of the New York Times' ThursdayStyles section a big, fat kiss this morning after I first looked at the newspaper. Normally, I wouldn't have any such smoochy desire. Normally, I'm irked by some story or another in that section because it makes me feel like a schlub because I don't spend $500 on my footwear and am unwilling to spend a lot of time and effort trying to keep up with the beautiful and the fabulous who have mucho disposable income with which to purchase the latest, trendy fashion "must haves."

But when I gazed at today's Styles section and saw that almost the whole top half of the newspaper was occupied by images of actress Reese Witherspoon on three different magazine covers looking like three different women due to the amount of Photoshopping that had been done to her photos, I smiled through my outrage.

While it's true that the web site Jezebel has done a stellar job of chronicling the odious Photoshopping that sadistic magazine editors routinely engage in -- the process of taking already lovely people and digitally altering their images, rendering them inhuman looking -- it's quite a statement by the Times to dedicate the entire top of the Styles section to this soul-crushing, destructive technique which editors defend, as if it's ethical or even good for their readers. (They're wrong on both counts.)

The article began this way:

"Most readers of fashion magazines are aware that all photographs, at least to some degree, lie.

More often than not, images have been altered -- historically with painstaking tricks of lighting and exposure and, more recently, with retouching software that can make celebrities and models look thinner, taller, unblemished, with brighter eyes and whiter teeth. Seemingly perfect. Advances in digital photographs that cover models often resemble weirdly synthesized creatures or, as the photographer Peter Lindbergh described them this week, 'objects from Mars.'"

The paper explained how Lindbergh "stirred the pot by creating a series of covers for French Elle that showed stars . . . without makeup or retouching." Lindbergh told the Times: "My feeling is that for years now, it [Photoshopping] has taken a much too big part in how women are being visually defined today. Heartless retouching should not be the chosen tool to represent women in the beginning of this century."

When asked by the Times about Photoshopping, the editor of Glamour said, "Fashion magazines are always about some element of fantasy but what I'm hearing from readers lately is that in fashion, as in every other part of our lives right now, there is a hunger for authenticity." Just look at those Witherspoon magazine covers above -- from Elle, Marie Claire and Vogue -- and you tell me that editors of fashion magazines will actually give readers "authenticity" on a regular basis, not just in some "very special issues," like the one featuring Lindbergh's natural photos. I seriously doubt it.

I tend to think that the magazine editors don't care a whit about the negative impact these false images have on girls and women because they hawk false fantasy masquerading as something remotely achievable. They'll, sadly, likely continue to carry on with business as usual, as shown in the video below from Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty:

Image credit: New York Times.


Anonymous said...

LOVE the video. Thanks for posting.

Howard said...

I agree. Let's publish pictures of real people. Let's learn to love what we really look like.