Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Ethics of Photo Manipulation Blasted Again

It feels like it should be obvious by now that magazines and advertisers “edit” photos of attractive people to make them impossibly attractive. It’s been going on for years. They tell us they have to do it so we will pay attention, so we will buy the thing, so we will trust them. Everyone knows it’s misleading. Everyone knows it furthers the myth that perfection is possible.

But it’s one of those things you know in your head but not in your heart.

Take the recent Redbook cover with Faith Hill. The folks at got their hands on the original photo that was used for the doctored-up cover. On the cover, Faith is missing some blemishes. OK fine. But she’s also missing body parts. Her arm is thinner without the traces of natural flab that were there before. And that part of you that bunches up around a waistband has disappeared.

I look at the cover shot and think, wow, she’s in shape. How does she do that – especially after having kids? I never could. But I should. And so it goes.

And it’s worse for kids who don’t know the secret yet.

The ironic part is that Faith Hill is really attractive without any adjustments. So why do they do this?

The Today Show covered the story (which you can view online). The Redbook editor-in-chief Stacy Morrison had the audacity to say: “In the end, they're not really photographs. They're images.” Uh huh, and I have some swampland for sale.

One of the guests also said, “That’s what women want to buy.” Which is total *%#. It always has been but it is especially so in today’s world of reality and transparency.

They way I see it, making people appear better than is humanly possible is a deception. Rationalizing doesn’t take away the lie.

And this lie is harmful.

It’s harmful to adults – men and women both – in terms of our self concepts and expectations of each other.

And clearly it’s harmful to kids and teens. come said it well: “In a world where girls as young as eight are going on the South Beach Diet, teenagers are getting breast implants as graduation gifts… it's __ing wrong.”

As a parent of daughters, as a woman, as a consumer, as an advocate of media literacy, I’m grateful to the likes of and Dove.

Shel Holtz recently shared that he uses the Dove "Evolution" viral video campaign as an example in his presentations. One of those days, a participant slipped out during lunch, went to his hotel room and e-mailed the video to his daughter. She’d been having serious problems and was even suicidal. He later told Shel that the Dove video changed his daughter’s life.

Media images have an impact. Each of us has to decide everyday if we want that impact to be good or bad.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The magazines cited are not local. However a few of our homegrown magazines follow suit in lock step. A common comment is that these "cover shots" will end up being the subject's obit portraits because they never looked so good among the living. A little enhancement can be little white lies, which are so much more polite than a painfully flagrant concoctions.