Sunday, April 26, 2009

Simulating reality and waistlines and teeth and hair and eyes and....

The first case of photo manipulation was in the 1860s. Early photo transformations were usually for propaganda purposes or "improved" storytelling, such as Joseph Stalin having an enemy removed from a photograph in 1930 and National Geographic squeezing the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt closer together to fit on the magazine cover in 1982. Erasing the enemy was Orwellian and evil, but the pyramid thing? No harm done. Photo manipulation was pretty useful in both cases.

Today, thanks to a culture obsessed with beauty, photos of celebrities are being manipulated so much that some are closer to total digitalizations (think Pixar) than they are to real people. Instead of pyramids being squeezed, it’s celebrity waistlines. And while people usually aren’t deleted, their imperfections are.

WB is disturbed by every celebrity picture that is altered to focus on fake beauty, because each new case makes us seriously consider changing all of our meals to just a glass of water (we'll add lemon once we when we reach size zero).

Jennifer Hudson turned out to not be what America wanted in an “idol,” but that didn’t stop her from winning a Grammy, Academy Award, and Golden Globe. However, it did stop her from being as gorgeous as she "should" be, at least according to whoever edited her album cover where she shed several pounds around the waist via computer, then refused to comment on the cover.

But American Idol Kelly Clarkson isn’t afraid to admit that her album cover was manipulated. “They have definitely photoshopped the crap out of me,” Clarkson said, elegantly, on her blog. “But I don’t care. Whoever she is, she looks great!”

Jenny McCarthy isn’t afraid of non-perfection haters either. She admitted her secret to looking gorgeous on the cover of Shape magazine: “It’s eating healthy and also a crapload of airbrushing. I have freckles and stretch marks that you do not see here, and they add a little shadowing to make these muscle things happen that don’t exist on my body.” And a few more things have been changed when comparing candid photographs in the same swimsuit she wore in the magazine. The bikini top managed to magically make her breasts perky and fit into the swimsuit better, though they needed a little help on the beach. Her face also appeared to get a Photoshop lift on the cover. But thanks for being at least kind of honest, Jen.

Jennifer Aniston also had a few touch-ups when she posed naked on the January 2009 cover of GQ. Aniston admitted to Barbara Walters that the photograph was manipulated when Walters asked, “What happened to the girl next door from Friends?” Aniston’s reply? “She’s there! Photoshopped!”

Kate Winslet went as far as to call the retouching of her photo on another GQ magazine cover “excessive.” “I can tell you that they've reduced the size of my legs by about a third,” she said.

Andy Roddick also weighed in about his photo on the cover of Men’s Fitness, saying, “Little did I know I have twenty-two-inch guns and a disappearing birthmark on my right arm."

Faith Hill’s body changed too, on the cover of Redbook. The original photo, to the left below, shows a small bulge of "back fat" under her arm, freckles on her arm, wrinkles under her eyes, and a wider arm than the re-touched photo that made the cover. Big differences in hair color, skin tone, eye shape, nose, lips, teeth, cheeks, shoulders, elbows, and even head tilt are all obvious as well — and somehow she's grown a right arm in the "improved" photo that isn't there in the original. But other than that, it's Faith Hill. Really.

Photoshop Perfection is not just an American phenomenon. China got into the "improvement" frenzy and removed all of Lindsey Lohan’s freckles in her appearance on the Chinese Harper’s Bazaar cover.

Beyonce Knowles wasn’t perfect enough for L’Oreal Paris, which ran an advertisement in two separate magazines, one predominately for White readers, the other for African Americans. In order for the ad to "blend in" with the others, Knowles had to appear lighter in Allure and darker in Essence. We understand marketing your product to the right consumer and all, but, c’mon L’Oreal, giving someone a case of the Michael Jacksons? That’s just plain freaky.

With freckles erased, teeth straightened, fat removed, wrinkles smoothed, and breasts lifted, one would think there isn’t anything left to fix. But race car driver Danica Patrick has had tattoos removed from photos. The photo of Patrick to the left was taken in 2008 for Sports Illustrated magazine and shows an American flag tattoo on her back. One year later, the tattoo (which actually now has wings) was missing from the 2009 issue of the same magazine.

For a moment we thought that maybe Dove condemned this photo editing frenzy when the company started its “Campaign for Real Beauty.” The advertising strategy featured women in all shapes and sizes and was meant to tell women that they are beautiful just as they are. But, according to an article in The New Yorker, those photos were also edited. The photo retouching artist who worked on the campaign, Pascal Dangin, said the ads were "great to do, a challenge, to keep everyone's skin and faces showing the mileage but not looking unattractive." And if that's not ironic enough, Dove also created a video called "Evolution" that shows an ordinary woman being transformed into a supermodel via makeup, lightening – and of course, a computer. The video ends with the message, "No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted...every girl deserves to feel beautiful just the way she is."

Next time, Dove, you should probably at least try to follow your own advice.

WB is thrilled that Susan Boyle, the "dumpy" and "plain" British woman who sent British audiences — and then the world, via YouTube — reeling with her angelic singing voice, is... well, dumpy and plain. But we also know that the Photoshop maniacs are revving up their computers at this moment to do some major "fixing." (Surely Dr. 90210 has called by now, too.)

Photoshop in action:

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