Thursday, February 25, 2010


Tali's fantastic post on weight and age issues surrounding models in the fashion industry made me think some more about appearance and what kind of images are being projected to women on a daily basis in adverts and magazines. I just wanted to touch on airbrushing in the media and give some opinions on it and also to hear what you guys think about this subject. Whether you agree or disagree, all comments are welcome!

In some way or another, over the course of human history, women's appearance has been altered for artistic means. Painters often altered the dimensions of their subjects to create a more beautiful image that was fashionable during that era.

It seems that the manipulation of the female form in art or media continues to this day, however, things have got a lot more technical with the introduction of intricate airbrushing in the last couple of decades. But with all these 'improvements' being made to photographs of models and celebrities, it begs the question...where do we draw the line?

A lot of politicians have expressed the opinion that airbrushed photographs should be banned in material targeted at under-16's in order to protect their health and self-esteem. To me, this really makes sense because teenagers are particularly susceptible to feelings of depression and low self-esteem and I don't think that idolising images of women with unattainable features is healthy. The majority of images we see nowadays have been doctored in one way or another and sometimes people end up looking completely different.

Images of Twiggy for Olay face cream and Jessica Alba for a Campari advert have both been criticised in the newspapers for being heavily airbrushed before publication. In the case of Twiggy, a lot of lines and wrinkles had been removed and Jessica Alba was made to look slimmer (as if she needed that!). The brands know that the average woman will compare herself to these images and aspire to reach the heights that this kind of 'digital' beauty demands...the only problem being that it's not real!

There are exceptions to the rule though and I recently learned that Michelle Mone, the creator of Ultimo lingerie, launched the advertising campaign featuring Peaches Geldof with un-doctored photographs, and she strongly believes that other brands should follow her more ethical lead. She was quoted as saying "A lot of adults appreciate how far images are digitally enhanced, but we need to protect younger generations, because these are the images they're striving to emulate. My daughter is only 16 years old and I would hate to think that she feels unnecessary pressure to be picture-perfect, when a lot of images have been Photoshopped to death. The problem is, it has become acceptable to airbrush to ridiculous lengths. Alot of people no longer know what a woman's body looks like, which is why, with our latest Miss Ultimo campaign featuring Peaches Geldof, we made sure that her natural curves and her tattoos were in there - all the intricacies that make her a beautiful young woman".

Speaking as an 'average' woman I know myself that it's hard not to look at digitally enhanced photographs of models and celebs and not feel a little bit inadequate. But, what scares me is that these images are causing young girls to chase the illusion of a flawless appearance. I strive to achieve a flawless appearance through the use of makeup but to me, cosmetics are for enhancing your natural features, NOT completely changing them beyond all recognition.

Kate Winslet was famously outraged at GQ magazine when her photos were enhanced before they appeared on the cover. GQ's editor, Dylan Jones, said the photographs had been "highly styled, buffed, trimmed and make the subject look as good as humanly possible". Kate Winslet made it clear to GQ magazine and the media that she was not consulted about the digital alterations made afterwards to lengthen her legs and flatten her stomach and she certainly did not advocate it. Go Kate!

Everyone wants to look good and it's natural to want to project the best 'version' of yourself. But when photos of models and celebs, who are already absolutely beautiful in their natural state, are being modelled on the media's perception of what is attractive and desirable, well, I think there needs to be a line drawn. I don't blame the celebs, as a lot of the time, magazines digitally enhance photos without their say so. I think society's overall perception of what is beautiful needs to be re-assessed.

Do you think that images should include a warning detailing what has been altered to promote more honesty about what has been retouched or do you think it would ruin the magic?

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