Wings for Liberty

Twenty years ago, when John and Thomas Knoll launched the first photo manipulation program they didn’t imagine it would eventually lead to what Photoshop is today. Aside from enhancing a photo, correcting light and color, Photoshop is also excessively used in altering people’s appearances, which raises a series of questions. First of all, why is it ok to alter a photo of a scenery and not one of a model? The sensitive answer would be because a tree will never look at another tree in a magazine and feel inferior, ugly, fat or develop body image issues and eating disorders. Secondly, what means to excessively photoshop a person? The moment in which a fifty-six year old woman looks twenty-something on the cover of magazines, Photoshop has been taken too far. When models claim they look almost nothing like their reflection in the glossy magazines, a sign of alarm should be raised. In today’s world, when most consumerists know that the pictures they see in magazines are altered and they no longer represent real models, people should ask themselves, is there a point to it anymore?

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The most frequent use of Photoshop is in order to sell something: an image, or one of the most common uses, a miracle product. Industries count on the naivety of the people to sell their products through both altered images and false advertising. Girls see pictures of impossibly skinny women next to miracle weight loss products, women see photoshopped pictures of an incredibly young looking Madonna next to anti-aging products and they believe it. Another example which is not related to miracle products is the advertising for the fast food industry. Have you ever received a Big Mac that looked exactly like the one in the pictures? I haven’t. In a world where there are so many laws against theft and treachery, why do we still give these industries the power to trick us into buying products that will never work the way they falsely claim they do?

The first law to protect the consumer against manipulation came into effect in Israel on the first of January 2013. The “Photoshop Law”, as people call it, states that when a picture is altered in any way, the magazine or whatever media outlet publishes it, must clearly mention that it is not the original picture and several modifications have been made in order for it to look like that. That way, less informed people who are not so much aware of what happens in the “backstage” of the fashion and advertising world can think for themselves.

While I am not saying that people don’t generally think for themselves, I believe that they are quite easy to manipulate. Regardless of age or level of education, when it comes to striving to be better or even perfect, people put their hopes in falsely advertised products, which makes them a lot more gullible. From miracle weight loss pills to hair growth solutions, there are products targeted at every gender or age group, leaving none of us safe from manipulation and even possible scams. Unfortunately, there is no way (at least for now and the foreseeable future) that a law could ban photo manipulation, at least when it comes to advertising, completely. However, if more and more countries would adopt the Israel “Photoshop Law”, the mass of the population would be aware of what is really going on in the advertising industry and, consequently, would be harder to manipulate. That would be crucial especially in raising awareness among older people. It’s easy for teenagers to realize that what they see is most likely not going to be what they get when they have access to the internet and can search for reviews, inside stories and real testimonials, but what about the older population, who are the targeted audience of print press, magazines and the television? You will never see a newspaper or a TV show mention a disclaimer before or after promoting a product, confessing that the result pictures are photoshopped and it is most likely that the product will not miraculously fix their bald pates.

Another issue tackled by the “Photoshop Law” is concerning how the excessive manipulation raises unhealthy body image issues especially among young women. The law says that no model with a body mass index lower than 18.5 can walk on the runway. Most models are naturally slimmer than your average woman, but media considers that they should be even skinnier. Women in fashion editorials are photoshopped to perfection and that wouldn’t be a bad thing if girls treated them as what they really are: beautiful pictures. Girls look at the images glossy magazines provide as real and treat unrealistic beauty standards as guidelines to what they should look like. While this beauty standard acts as a motivating factor for some to live a healthier lifestyle, to eat better and to work out more in order to look better, it’s also what causes something as serious and dangerous as eating disorders. One might think that only some people would fall into such vicious circles, but as of recent studies, anorexia is one of the three most common eating disorders which affects teenagers.

In this case, even people who work in the media industry and are aware of how the excessive photoshopping works are still affected and strive to achieve the unrealistic beauty standards. There are dozens of models who have died from starvation, including eighteen year old Eliana Ramos and Anna Carolina Reston aged twenty one. If the media was a person, I would be very interested to know how the fact that such young people put their lives at risk and in some cases,even throw it away, makes it feel. While facing facts, unfortunately, we realize that the media actually is formed by hundreds of people who perpetuate these unhealthy standards while feeling no remorse at all. Last month, Australian magazine “Famous”, put model Kendall Jenner on their cover and claimed she is “too fat for the runway” and that she should “lose eight kilos”. Kendall, who weighs 54 kgs at 178 centimeters, is anything but too fat for the runway, so to make their story more plausible, they intentionally photoshopped cellulite on her thighs.

In a world where most media outlets do nothing but objectify and raise impossible beauty standards for women, it is important that there are laws which try to protect and prevent more unhealthy body issues from appearing, such as the Israel “Photoshop Law”.Excessive photoshopping does not only affect models and young people, unfortunately. There are several editorials and pictorials with older protagonists which at least raised some questions, if not even caused protests.

Madonna’s “Interview Magazine” editorial is one of the few that stayed with me for a long time after seeing it. The article consisted of 16 more or less half naked pictures of the singer, and as Dlisted.com put is best, “Here’s A Whole Lot Of Photoshop That Sort Of Resembles Madonna Courtesy Of Interview Magazine”. The first question that popped in my head, and I bet I am not the only one, is why would you make a beautiful fifty-six year old woman look like an artificial twenty-eight year old? If you take a look at the pictures, you can see that everything is retouched: her skin, her eyes, her body shape, even her hair. There is not a single bit of Madonna that was not retouched and after researching further, this is not an isolated case: all magazines make Madonna look thirty at most. For the ones who realize it’s all Photoshop, the only issue that stands is, why do retouchers still do it? We all know she was born in 1958, we all know that there is no way she could look like that. We have all seen paparazzo photos and we have proof that neither does her skin look that perfect, nor her hair, nor her body. So for us, the question that still stands is: if the illusion is broken, do we need Photoshop anymore?

When editing or manipulating images with the help of Photoshop, people should bare in mind both questions of ethics and aesthetics. Ethics are a set of rules created by man, meant to help him to morally distinguish good from bad, to help men make the right decisions in certain situations. Each workplace has its own sets of rules, the same way each person has his or her own set of moral values. Aesthetics are also a set of principles that deal with the nature of beauty, art and taste. They dictate what is viewed as beautiful, as pleasing to the eyes of the viewer.

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In today’s world, there is almost nothing you can’t do when manipulating a photo. An important issue to think about when doing so is, when does the pursuit of aesthetics violate our moral codes, our ethics? When the images we create and promote are in part the cause of so many people’s unhappiness, isn’t that a sign of alarm? Isn’t causing issues as serious as eating disorders and mental illnesses wrong? People need to realize that their greed and well-being is not more important than the health of the ones they lie to and manipulate.

A little bit of Photoshop never hurt anybody. Some color and light correction, removing a few blemishes and imperfections indeed make a photo more beautiful and appealing, but it needs to stop there. With the help of Photoshop, today’s media is able to falsely advertise products, manipulate the masses and create unrealistic body image standards that help fill their bank accounts and crush self esteems. It is high time excessive photoshopping called it a day and for the media to deliver real, unaltered beauty.

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Some food for thought. What do you think? Do you agree with excessive photoshopping? Leave me your opinions in the comments! <3

January 18, 2015

Patricia Blaj

24 Comments

  1. Reply

    worldpedispa

    October 21, 2015

    Amazing! I will nominate this post for Versatile Blogger Awards! Cheers!
    http://www.worldpedispa.com

  2. Reply

    Roxanne D

    January 18, 2015

    Nah, I truly believe that this is a false problem. The media has, is, and will always continue to strive for one thing only: unattainable perfection. That’s the core of the entire star system, that keeps the motor running: the idea that these artists are so incredibly perfect in their perfection. We feed off this illusion. Madonna the glamazon queen of music is a completely different entity from Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone the person.

    • Reply

      Patricia Blaj

      January 18, 2015

      If it were only a false problem, anorexia wouldn’t be the third most common chronic disease that affects teenagers :)

  3. Reply

    luxessed

    January 18, 2015

    As with everything; if the tool exists, people will use it. Personally I think that people want to see photoshopped photos and look at an ‘ideal’, a fantasy. It’s a way to escape daily life, even if it’s just for a few seconds by looking at a photo. That’s my opinion.

    http://www.LUXESSED.com

  4. Reply

    Kelsey Bang

    January 18, 2015

    Photoshop is a great tool for creativity and such but photo-manipulation can get out of hand.

    kelseybang.com

  5. Reply

    Mel

    January 18, 2015

    Great post! Totally agree with you!

    http://girlandthepolkadot.blogspot.com/

  6. Reply

    Helena@Business Casual Style

    January 18, 2015

    Great article!I usually use Photoshop for making collages or when I paint my fantasy art:) I definitely don’t like seeing photos that are clearly changed too much.

  7. Reply

    pipsysl

    January 18, 2015

    Patricia this is one great post! I agree 100% with you. People should be more natural, shouldn’t be afraid to show the real ‘me’.
    Thank you for sharing :)

  8. Reply

    SpaFurnish

    January 17, 2015

    Great post! Very interesting subject. strong and bold. awesome! :)

  9. Reply

    Pedicure Spa

    January 17, 2015

    Strong post! interesting topic. Nice one :)

  10. Reply

    LaWannish

    January 17, 2015

    Patricia, this was a very insightful read… I as an adult woman am very aware that the media does these touch ups … or overall cover ups for whatever ridiculous reason they have… what I worry about is the young girls who follow this and think that is the way they need to look… that is what I think is sickening… teenagers and young women have enough to live up to and they don’t need the media telling them they are fat. I wish all countries had to put that disclaimer on their photos..

    I am a 51 year old woman who looks a bit younger because of great genes but I will never touch up my photos in any way because I have to see people face to face … so what is the point… ?

  11. Reply

    iamserenel

    January 17, 2015

    It is annoying when you see an image of a perfectly beautiful person who is unedited & then see them edited to look superficial !!! Great read Lovely!
    Serene xoxo

    http://www.imserenel.wordpress.com

  12. Reply

    Betterave

    January 17, 2015

    While I agree with most of this article, please stop blaming the “retouchers”. They’re very rarely the ones who decide people should look thinner or younger. They only do what they’re told, they don’t have a say in it, and they have to do it or they’ll lose their job most of the time.
    Photoshop is only a tool, and is not what should be blamed here either.

  13. Reply

    laura mitbrodt

    January 16, 2015

    I agree it makes people look unrealistic
    xo
    http://www.laurajaneatelier.com

  14. Reply

    Adriana

    January 16, 2015

    Interesting post… I must say this use to photoshop is something to be worried about… Specially for those who are not confident with themselves: teenagers, women, young girls mostly… Hope we get limits in using photoshop.
    Kisses
    Fashion Avenue
    http://fashionavenueabc.blogspot.de/

  15. Reply

    RM

    January 16, 2015

    well, I see the appeal of endless possibilities to reach perfection in artistic creations. however, as a mom of a teen girl, I worry immensely about this surreal reflection of human’s body in today’s media. I think that nobody will stop overusing photoshop, because many industries are way too interested in the income they get because of people’s low self-esteem. the way I see it, I can only teach my daughter to distinguish between real and surreal, to see the real beauty in real people and to value herself for who she really is. people with corrected imperfections are just that – corrected versions, non-existent persons, unreal reflections. it’s not something to be achieved simply because it’s not real. I may be wrong, but if we try to drew a clear distinction between real and surreal, maybe it wouldn’t be such a huge problem? I mean, people don’t try to jump of the skyscrapers because their beloved fictional characters are able to survive such challenge, right?

  16. Reply

    thefashionpandacrew

    January 16, 2015

    I don’t know, some picuters to be honest look better when they are photoshoped

    http://www.thefashionpanda.be
    http://www.thefashionpanda.be

    • Reply

      Patricia Luiza

      January 16, 2015

      If we could photoshop anorexia and the unrealistic beauty standards most photoshopped images raise, then it would all be ok!

  17. Reply

    litonkrl

    January 16, 2015

    Great article! Photoshop is an amazing for artistic stuff or making some corrections on a photo.

    Clipping Path Outsource
    http://www.clippingpathoutsource.com

  18. Reply

    borka

    January 16, 2015

    This is amazing… so true!
    Happy weekend <3
    Borka
    http://www.chicfashionworld.com

  19. Reply

    Sarah

    January 15, 2015

    Great post. I have stopped following a few bloggers because they overuse Photoshop. So much better to look at more natural photos, especially in the fashion blog world.

    Sarah
    sarahjustinestyle.blogspot.com

  20. Reply

    Sukriti Dahiya

    January 15, 2015

    Such an informative post Patricia! Even I don’t understand the point of editing pictures to look slim. But it’s a sad story that we even portray models in fashion illustration far from reality. Super tall and super thin!

    http://www.delhidaffodil.com

  21. Reply

    OneUseFashion

    January 15, 2015

    So interesting, great post dear
    https://oneusefashion.wordpress.com

  22. Reply

    Mana

    January 15, 2015

    I love this. I agree with you 100%. Photoshop can be great for artistic stuff or making some corrections on a photo. But unfortunately, nowadays everything’s is fake in this world. And the worst thing is that everyone’s aware of the fact that 99% of the photos in magazines and ads are fake. And it seems somehow they need this? I wonder if this world and reality is too terrible for people so they like to look at fake things instead to feel better?

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