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Blog // Images
January 17, 2008

Photoshop, Image and Aesthetic Realism

Amber Mac is one of on favourite technology bloggers and she had the courage to pose sans make-up for a piece highlighting how profoundly (and quickly) photoshop can be used to alter a person’s photographic image. I’d encourage you to take a look at the artist’s website to see the stages involved in the retouching […]

Amber Mac is one of on favourite technology bloggers and she had the courage to pose sans make-up for a piece highlighting how profoundly (and quickly) photoshop can be used to alter a person’s photographic image. I’d encourage you to take a look at the artist’s website to see the stages involved in the retouching of Amber’s photo.

My initial reaction to the “after” image was “oh, that is so fake!” However, an hour or so later I was walking past some movie posters and the images on those were no less fake. Moreover, you flick through any number of magazine ads and see equal levels of fakery in images that should look real (interestingly, this is more prevalent in mainstream and more downmarket magazines than high fashion, where the artifice is more obvious).

It’s common to hear criticism of the fashion and advertising industries for promoting unreal and unsustainable ideas of beauty and to a significant degree that is a valid statement. Far too much of contemporary fashion idolises youth and rarified ideas of perfection. However, the flip-side is that the images we see in advertising do not appear out of a vacuum, but are the result of extensive market research and market testing.

We may claim we prefer more natural beauty, but at as consumers, we still respond more willingly to extreme and aspirational images.

It was reassuring to see the comments on Amber’s site showing a preference for the more natural look – I agree with that. The fake, cartoonish and overprocessed shot is unappealing. However, if we take a look at the intermediate stages in the process and consider what a more modest and reserved image would have looked like; well, to be honest who wouldn’t want a little airbrushing and restoration?

We might reject an extreme makeover for ourselves, but we probably accept some improvement is desirable. There’s a line, but it’s vague. And therein lies the problem.

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