Photo Retouching is a Fake Reality

Lady Beydonna.  Courtesy of Caitlin McCown.

Lady Beydonna. Courtesy of Caitlin McCown.

“Sometimes when you work in advertising you’ll get a product that’s really garbage and you have to make it seem fantastic, something that is essential to the continued quality of life.” – Augusten Burroughs

Blame it on the media, if you will, but the idea of perfection is constantly being plastered in front of us and shoved down our throats. The models are getting skinnier, the quality of products is getting worse, and the pursuit for the ideal is getting tougher. As celebrities become more attractive, the average person’s self-esteem plummets in an inverse effect. And all of this has become a great deal easier thanks to technological advances including photo-altering.

Recently, photo-altering has become a controversy with the gained popularity and accessibility of photo-editing programs such as Adobe Photoshop. Not only are big advertising companies and mass media able to change and distort reality, but so can you in your very own home! As the schism between what is real and what is not blurs, people have a harder time distinguishing the difference and the unfamiliarity becomes a discomfort.

The more righteous people in the world are taking strides in hopes of changing this. As an example, the company Dove launched a True Beauty campaign in which they try to advertise beauty in a more conventional way:

“We want to help free ourselves and the next generation from beauty stereotypes” as we “create thought-provoking ads, confidence-building programs and messages that embrace all definitions of beauty.”
A noble cause indeed, but to be quite honest a futile one. Although some people may commend the company for taking such actions, the influence of overall media is too great. In all honesty, people do not want to see other average people as an ideal or as something for which they strive. It only makes sense for advertisers to create a facade that is suited for their needs. It is just the game that they have to play in order to get to the public into buying into what they are trying to sell. Although most do not want to admit it, people also have the innate instinct to always want more and what is better than themselves. Though many may contest it, there is a bit of superficiality in all of us. Thus, it only makes sense that reality should be tweaked a little here and there.

Now, I am not condoning photo-altering that takes things to another extreme. It is not fair for the impressionable young girls to look at models who have been photo-altered until they are unnaturally stick-skinny. I am not agreeing with those who create and alter photographs from nothing and try to pawn it off it as real (especially in the cases of fraudulent journalism). Like everything else, with this new-found power, there needs to be a sense of responsibility from both parties.

The public needs to realize that the people who partake in such an activity are just doing their job. They are essentially taking an idea and representing it with an image that the audience can relate to in order reach a certain goal. The public should not succumb completely to such techniques of persuasion like a horde of excessively-impressionable zombies. They themselves should be able to judge for themselves what is attainable and what is not. They should realize that a celebrity sporting the newest fashion item is airbrushed or that a McDonald’s menu item will not appear the same as its picture counterpart.
In a way, photo-altering is not a deceptive form of influence, but rather just a fact of our consumerism. In order to keep everything in a working cycle, someone needs to take something ordinary and make it seem extraordinary.

Photo-altering should not be seen as a vice but rather a helpful resource in maintaining our fascination with the mundane, which is at times slightly transformed for our own benefit.

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