10.15.2008

Response to MomGrind's take on Photoshop

Women Who Say No To Photoshopping |
What these women did is important, because in a culture that puts a lot of pressure on women to be physically “perfect”, it’s important to see women who are BEAUTIFUL, strong and successful - in a real, non-airbrushed kind of way.
Link through to this article, let me preface - this was an excellent, well written piece (not sure how much my taste matters, but I liked it - oh, and just a warning, yes, there is a breastfeeding picture, if that bothers you). That being said, I don't completely agree. Now, don't get me wrong, at some level, I agree. I agree with the value of images of women (or men, mind you, who don't actually look much like, say, Brad Pitt as a general rule) as a check on the bloated reality of the modern world. I think that there are many siutations, in fact, where you should NEVER have an airbrushed photo. Journalism for example. In a situation where one is showing factual truth, one shouldn't be altering a photo, as a general rule. However, that being said, I'd just like to point out a few subtleties to the argument. Now, of course, there is a place for Photoshop, so let me be clear what I'm talking about. When I worked for a newspaper, not to break anyone's heart, but every single picture that appeared in the paper was 'Photoshopped' - they ran it through filters to make the picture's colors appear brighter, more striking, they would sharpen fuzzy images, etc, etc, etc. There's nothing wrong with this. What I'm talking about is alterations of the basic facts of someone's face - clearing away scars or wrinkles, or a rough complexion, shrinking a nose, accentuating a hip, etc, etc, etc. The first case for when, perhaps, Photoshopping is appropriate is referred to in the blog MomGrind links to at the bottom. This is the area of personal choice. If you're posting an image of yourself on your blog, or if you are sending a picture of your family out on a Christmas card - to some extent even if you're, say, sending your picture to someone you met and are thinking of dating, or something - I see this kind of like makeup. It's your choice. There are those who are completely comfortable with having their face be just what it is. And then there are those who are not. If you have a disfigurement, or something that pains you about your looks, then, I don't presume to judge your choices. This is one of the beautiful things about technology, after all, that we can live fantasies in a limited sphere. Whether it's healthy or not, that's an argument I'm not going to even embark on, but let it be what it is. It's not my place to intrude. I would argue, however, that if you think of photography as an art, even, sometimes, the airbrushing of a model might be appropriate. I know, that's an uncomfortable thing to have said to you. It's uncomfortable to say, as well. But, for a moment, step outside of the immediacies of the situation. Imagine, for instance, Michelangelo, sculpting David. He had a young man, standing in his studio, naked, on a pedestal, and he was looking at him, to sculpt David. David was, for all intents and purposes, a reproduction of this young man's form. But, Michelangelo was not just making a carbon copy of an individual, he was using the frame of this, probably beautiful, boy to extrapolate something different, an ideal - an inhuman one. One that, if I'm supposed to hold myself up to it's standard of beauty, well... let's just say I'm one ugly man, in comparison. But that's what art IS, sometimes, the hyperbolization of life. Now, is the cover of Maxim art? As a general rule, let's go with no. But, unfortunately, if you're goign to foster art, you have to allow garbage. I firmly believe that. And in 50 years, luckily, people won't remember the garbage (or at least, they won't worship it as art. I hope.), but they will (hopefully) remember the art. The real issue, I think, gets missed with all this talk of airbrushing. The real issue is, when a graphic designer touches up a girl to appeal to me, the male consumer, why is it that my market sector demands someone who looks like they would snap if the wind blew too hard? OR someone who looks like they traded in their brain to purchase a larger libido? Why is it that America wants women who define beauty as sickliness? IS it because we see all these images of beautifully airbrushed sickly women? In part, yes, and I would like that to change. But, it changs when we show healthy women, not when we censor unhealthy ones. A parable. There was a time in our history when we realized that alchohol, as a general rule, is unhealthy, for individuals and society. Women, particularly, were victimized by it. IT was the root of a lot of poverty, a lot of abuse, and a lot of the patriarchal society that ruled America at the time (and still, I suppose, in many ways). So, we banned it. Yeah, that didn't work out so well. People did not stop drinking, because illegalizing a market does not destroy a market. What destroys a market is marketing. It's education. We learned this, to an extent, many years later, when we FINALLY got around to deciding that smoking was unhealthy. Did we illegalize smoking? No. We demanded labelling on cigarettes. We taxed cigarettes. We educated children and adults, we shocked people into realizing what a lie they'd been pulled into for so long. And, slowly, smoking is being reduced across the country. And, perhaps, eventually it will dissapear, more or less. But, it will never dissappear through prohibition, it will disappear because you assume that the public is smart enough to not want what's bad for them, and you search for a solution from there. So, why do we want Barbie-women as our role models? Why can't we see how beautiful a Ruben painting is, or an old woman, or a woman with a scar, or with short hair, or with freckles, or whatever? Until we understand the answer to that, Photoshopping will remain a way to deceive, instead of a way to create.

3 comments:

Vered - MomGrind said...

Well... you already know what MY opinion is on the subject. Now go finish your homework. :)

Matthew said...

thank u r information

it very useful

Ari Koinuma said...

That was a thoroughly thoughtful (now that's a mouthful) discussion of the issue.

I can see touching up photos can be a good tool, if the point of image was something other than to convey the truth.

Sometimes fables are more powerful than real story, if the point was to convey a point. You take out some elements, may be re-order the events, and concoct a story that is designed to make a maximum impact.

I see that the same can be true for photos.

ari