As a magazine editor, blogger and long-time fashion industry professional, I have a somewhat shocking confession to make: I can’t stand Photoshop. I sometimes wish it wasn’t legal. When it failed to download onto my computer twice, I secretly rejoiced.
It’s not that I want to strip visual professionals of their creative freedom. It’s not that I haven’t marveled at technology’s ability to shed light onto a visibly pitch-black Fashion Week shot with the mere click of a button. And it’s not like there are currently any photos of me on Instagram with a #nofilter tag. I can be partial to a VSCOCam filter to add a vintage hint to a pic of a pretty flower shop or a quick Afterlight edit to a London sunset. I am not against the concept of photo-editing per sé; I recognise its power to, as my husband puts it, ‘pull out the magic that the eye can see, but the camera fails to capture.’
My issue with Photoshop is that it’s constantly used to alter images of women’s bodies and faces, creating a completely fabricated image of what a woman looks like. Sometimes bordering on the ridiculous, fashion’s obsession with cutting away at women’s figures to the point of resembling a stick insect and smoothing their faces to create a creepy-looking, alien-esque surface has become so anchored into normality that for a minute I thought we had stopped questioning it. But I was wrong.
Case in point: fitness supplement brand ProteinWorld’s awful ‘Bikini Body’ ad – with the most kick-ass backlash I’ve seen recently, good work ladies! But while the critics are correct in shaming this nausea-inducing campaign for objectifying women and once again branding our bodies as just something to look at – is no one noticing how retouched the photo is? That model didn’t get to look that way by knocking back ProteinWorld supplements – she got sliced n’ diced by the masterful works of Adobe, and so can you, me and everyone, for only £8.70 a month, basic Photoshop service.
While I understand and support the notion of eliminating imperfections such as a pimple (which I think we can all agree is undesirable – acne is, after all, a disease of the skin), distorting perfectly healthy images to fit into a mold that most closely resembles a cross between a Barbie doll and an alien is…unattractive. That’s right. Am I the only one who, when faced with the ‘before and after’ shots of celebrities always thinks they looked better before?
Is it just me or is the real Jennifer Lawrence so much better-looking than the over-chiselled, undernourished version on the right? When I look at this comparison, my immediate reaction is: why? Why alter a photo that’s already gorgeous?
Victoria’s Secret model Erin Heatherton defended the brand’s excessive Adobe-obsession with, ‘we’re not selling reality, we’re selling a story. I don’t think people should confuse fantasy and reality’. My question is: must is the ‘fantasy’ equal malnourishment, sucked-in cheeks, duck lips and skin that looks like it was moulded in a laboratory? I don’t fantasise about looking like a plastic doll. Do you?
When this unretouched photo of Cindy Crawford leaked in February, I was overjoyed. Finally, a healthy representation of a 48-year-old woman looking natural and gorgeous – without digital surgery. At 31, I am quite particular about not Photoshopping out wrinkles from my pictures. This is what nature intended for our bodies and faces to look like and I have no desire to resemble a 20-year-old at this point in my life. I am proud of the signs my face and body bears of many summers spent on the beach, many nights danced away and, why not, many cupcakes wolfed down! Who wants to look like they haven’t lived?
Crafting an artificial image of eternal youth and an everlasting state of underweight does no one any good – why not strive to be our best within the frames set by Mother Nature? After all, no matter how much you faff about with Photoshop, once you’ve shut down the computer, the authentic you will still be there in the mirror, cellulite and all. There’s no blur tool in real life.
I loved lingerie brand Aerie‘s #AerieReal campaign – one that celebrated beautiful women, unretouched. ‘But those girls are already perfect!’ you might say. And, well, they are still models! Being a model is, in my opinion, the only career path you cannot obtain through hard work – you have to be born with that ‘it’ factor. So obviously the girls in the ad campaigns will always look a certain way. But what’s important to me is a) that they don’t look unhealthy and b) that their already-beautiful image isn’t modified to unrecognisable status with digital ‘magic’.
I would love to say that no photo-retouching will ever appear on the pages of Vilda. But, unlike our in-house editorials, most images we feature are borrowed from brands or photographers, including runway photos that often feature retouched, extremely thin models. As a magazine, we need to show what’s relevant, and I’m proud to say most brands we work with steer clear of unhealthy images. However, I always try apply a critical sense of judgement when selecting photographic material. It’s about reflecting on how our content affects you, the readers. I want Vilda to be a positive place – inspiring in every way.
Top photo by David Camilli. Bottom photo from Aerie. Other photos via Marie Claire.