A couple of months ago I watched a terrific series on Channel 4 about Katie Perry, who suffered terrible burns as the result of having acid thrown over her – the series documented some of the long and painful process of recuperation and also looked at others who’d suffered disfigurement either from an accident or from a birth defect, and the way that this had impacted their lives and the way that society’s treated them.
As a photographer it’s my job to make sure that my clients, whoever they are, look good in the photographs, but there’s much more than that – in order for images to be really successful they also need to show some of the character of the subject. However, “character” sometimes comes with age, and age as we know brings with it the inevitable process that impacts on the way that we look (and feel about ourselves).
Sometimes I’ll be asked by a client if I can “Photoshop” the images to make them look younger and these days it’s not just older clients asking for this – girls in their 20’s want to have perfect skin in their photographs and look as gorgeous as possible …… there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look your best, but should we be altering and manipulating images to represent something that doesn’t actually exist?
Enhancing images has been around for years and in the old days was limited to soft-focus filters and a bit of work in the darkroom, but commercial editing of images in Photoshop goes way beyond that, to the extent that bodyshapes are altered, necks elongated and even skin tones lightened. As I read somewhere once, “Photoshop raises the bar of beauty to levels of impossible perfection”.
There’s so much pressure on youngsters these days to look good, and manipulated images of celebrities and models in magazines only increases that pressure. Alesha Dixon did a programme for the BBC3 a couple of years ago where she looked at the effect that this pressure was having on children even as young as 10, and campaigned to have more realistic images in the media. But the truth is that we live in a world where women are judged by their appearance .
When clothes designers use slender, even size zero models for their catwalks are they really showing clothes in the way that the majority of women can wear them, or are they selling a dream? Is it time for more reality in the world of advertising, or is that a wish too far?
I’d love to hear your views, so please feel free to comment below.
NY Fashion Week - Narciso Rodrqiguez. Image: Seth Wenig/Associated Press
Dorset wedding and portrait photographer
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