Saturday, March 24, 2012

airbrushing in the fashion industry.

So I wrote this article for our college newspaper, An Focal, and it’s set to be published in the last issue of the semester. It’s far too long and probably too sentimental so it’ll be edited to within an inch of its young life. I thought I’d post it here, where it can stretch its legs without the pressure of having to sound in any way intelligent. I don’t know. I just feel really passionately about this kind of thing.

EVERY girl knows that a high resolution photo of you looking your very best is still a cause for concern. Dry patches of skin, oily pores, not-quite-white teeth – these are all things that concern every woman at one time or another (and usually it's a constant, rather than a variable, and one we have to constantly battle). So why don't our magazine models reflect this? How do they get their even skin tone and sleek hair, the like of which I can only achieve on rare occasions and for mere moments at a time?

The fashion and beauty industry would have you believe that it's a thousand different moisturisers and hair products in play but the truth is it's a tech-savvy art department with excellent Photoshop skills. Almost anyone can erase fat lines and touch up their complexion in drunken photos before they hit Facebook. For someone with an in-depth knowledge of this kind of software, creating a “perfect” person is easy.

And while we know that no one actually looks like that, low self-esteem can mean that on a subconscious level, we do subscribe to it – we do believe that we are less beautiful than the girls who grace the pages of Cosmopolitan. But we're getting fed up of the less than honest depiction of women.

Clothing giant H&M faced massive controversy at the end of last year when it was noticed by a Swedish website that their latest swimwear campaign bizarrely featured the same body in every photo. But that body wasn't even a body – it was a mannequin digitally altered to look more human. Different bikinis corresponded to different faces, but every body was a uniform slim and breasty prototype, striking the same pose. When asked to comment on the bizarre revelations, H&M said that “The message is clear: buy our clothes, not our models.”

Make-up brand, Rimmel, also faced some criticism last year after Photoshopping indie beauty Zooey Deschanel in one of their lipstick campaigns. The waxen looking finished photo hardly resembled naturally gorgeous Zooey. In an effort to achieve “perfection,” the fashion, beauty and advertising industries have reached new levels of absurdity.

In August 2010, Rolling Stone Magazine featured a sultry looking Katy Perry on the front cover. Six months later, “before” pictures were leaked on blogging platform, Tumblr. The photos showed a pre-Photoshopped Perry looking natural and vulnerable compared to the altered photo, which had adjusted Katy's tummy, thigh, hand position, and skin tone, as well as plumping up her breasts by at least a cup size. This flagrant disregard for Katy's own natural good-looks just goes to show that the industry doesn't care about portraying natural beauty, and certainly doesn't care about our self-esteem.

If you see close up un-Photoshopped pictures of 27-year-old Katy Perry, you'll notice her crow's feet and thick layer of foundation. In other words, she looks like a human being: flawed, but still beautiful. For some reason, the bosses behind fashion magazines think that we as consumers don't want to see that. It's true that some of us see fashion magazines as artwork, and we want to see its models looking like goddesses, but it's also true that it's incredibly refreshing to see our perception of beauty turned on its head.

Tumblr blog Glitter Politic certainly challenges society's ideas of beauty and gender by publishing photos of intersex men and woman (and every gender in between), dressed beautifully in their own bodies, no editing, no professional styling. While it might not be everyone's cup of tea, it's important to know that there are other options: you don't have to buy into Vogue's definition of beauty, you can create your own.
You need only do a quick scan of the fashion blogosphere or your afternoon lecture, to realise that everyone is beautiful and very, very few of them look like they'd fit in on the cover of a glossy magazine. But that's the industry's fault, not theirs.

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