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Deceptive Advertising
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We all know that models are airbrushed and product shots are photoshopped. Do we really understand what this means, though?

Here are some before-and-after images of a model (roll your mouse over the image to see the changes). The difference is startling. No, it’s more than startling—it’s shocking and subtly disturbing. Do the images of beauty that we all carry around in our heads really exist at all?

If you click the Up arrow on that page, you can look at an entire portfolio of photoshopped images, some more innocuous than others, but all eye-opening.

Why do we put up with this? How could we do otherwise?

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I saw that quite some time ago. I admit that I didn't think so much about the social implications of this form of lying as how good this guy is at the art of photoshopping. Now is the time to realize that nothing we see on the computer is true. Go, see it with your own eyes. And only then maybe it is true.

The technical skill is very impressive, I have to grant that. Looking through the gallery I was spending as much time pondering the technique as the implications of its use.

Wow... I knew that images were airbrushed for blemishes and things, but I had no idea of the extent. Body shape is completely altered - in the same portfolio, there's a picture of a guy wearing a form-fitting sweater that shows the shape of his chest. In the retouched version, his body is completely flat, like a cartoon person.

It's wierd that these heavily edited images of people seem realistic when we see them in magazines or in ads. At the same time, I think the models' faces have much more character in the unretouched images.

Thanks for posting that link.

One of the things I noticed was how her belly-button was completely reconstructed in the photoshopped version. I can't imagine how many people are getting belly-button plastic surgery to make their navel look like an ideal based on stuff like this. Though, I think belly-buttons like that do exist, don't they..? Having seen how much of images are created, I'm no longer sure of my own conceptions of real bodies.

(From your profile I get the idea that I should know you, but I'm failing to guess who... You do fiddle lessons, you say?)

The thing that really got me was the body hair. Her real belly has tiny blond hairs on it; the retouched version has none. Makes her look a little like a Sim, doesn't it?

The pores, the down hairs, wrinkles and creases, the texture on the back of her hand... I can't get over the number of details brushed away.

I noticed the belly-button alteration too, but the part that changed the image the most is the eyes. When you take away the lines around someone's eyes, their face becomes generic and... well, kind of creepy.

As for who I am, I'm Vanessa, Dabrota's roommate, and one of Darthmaus' book clubbers. I've only met you once at repicheep's pirate party, so if you don't remember me, that's perfectly reasonable. I just followed the links to your journal, since it's a dull night at work. And your journal is interesting. So hello, pleased to meet you and happy Sunday.

Ooh, and yes, I teach the fiddle. I play mostly traditional Irish tunes but wish I knew more Canadian tunes. The music is fun and social. I notice that you posted a photo of a violin... you wouldn't happen to be a closet violinist, would you?

The face does get creepier, more doll-like. The trouble I have with that image is that it can look remotely normal to me at the same time. It's a sad indicator of how much I've internalised these images on magazine covers, and I've always considered myself pretty self-aware when it came to media images. I guess I need to be more on my guard than I have.

Ooh, and yes, I teach the fiddle. I play mostly traditional Irish tunes but wish I knew more Canadian tunes. The music is fun and social. I notice that you posted a photo of a violin... you wouldn't happen to be a closet violinist, would you?

Not a closet violin player, but I haven't made it a social thing yet. I decided, out of the blue, to learn fiddle/violin after my latest annual trip to the Mission Folk Music Festival. I've got a lesson book and a rental from Long & McQuade.

Progress is pretty slow because I'm learning without direction beyond the book, and because I'm a busy student. I'm pretty impressed by how far I've gotten by myself since I started in August, though now I'm starting to know enough to notice more subtle things I'm doing wrong without knowing how to tackle them.

(My ability to connect names to faces is not my best skill. I remember the name, and I likely remember the face, but the two just won't play nice together.)

Hey, congratulations on deciding to take up the fiddle, and on teaching yourself! Let me know if you could use any help or materials though - I've got a whack of sheet music and some good recordings.

I imagine that there will be a time when I find I can teach myself no more—or at least, that the pace is maddeningly slow. I might be looking for a mentor or teacher at that point.

Actually, recordings might be a good idea. I've got a score-editing and play-back program that I can use to transcribe a piece that I can't imagine properly in my head, which helps a lot. The only trouble with it is that it lacks the nuance that a real rendition gives to a piece, the sort of nuance that will grab my intuitive-learning side by the nose and point out something brand new.

Putting Faces To Names

This Vanessa?

(I was at that party too. I'm the origami guy.)

Re: Putting Faces To Names

Yagowe - yeah that's me! And how could I forget the man with an oregami parrot on his shoulder? =)

Do the images of beauty that we all carry around in our heads really exist at all?

You know the answer: no.

Why do we put up with this? How could we do otherwise?

I'm not sure these are lies, exactly. Art directors don't do this because they have evil plans to subjugate women. They do it because their customers, usually women themselves, are now repulsed at seeing a real woman in print.

I've done a lot of photo retouching, and the trick is being sensitive to your own inner perceptions. You don't really perceive every hair and blemish and wrinkle on that arm, you perceive it as a set of linked platonic sausages. So when you make the image more consonant with your vague, cartoony understanding of it, the image has a greased path straight into your neurons. It actually becomes pleasurable to view the image, because it lacks that background noise of slight dissonance the real world has. It feels more like a fantasy you're having.

There is an immediate pleasure in such an image, so people willingly consume it. There's nothing to "put up with". I think unrealistic body shapes just come along for the ride -- people fetishize whatever is associated with pleasure.

These body shapes are even different in different cultures. In Brazil, they'll photoshop 40" buttocks onto the woman, and here, they'll shrink them to 26". I figure it's chaotic; after a few feedback loops through the culture, one body shape dominates.

That's the problem of giving technology to apes.

Do the images of beauty that we all carry around in our heads really exist at all?

Have you ever seen one?

Well, no, I don't think any of us have—that was the point of the rhetorical question.

Actually, I think I can say yes to that one.

Really? My curiosity is piqued.

Its interesting... from a male, photographer, and from a photoshop user point of view.

In looking at some of the before pictures in comparison to the 'improved' versions. The photographer goes... well, that picture is okay, but the lighting is bad, and the makeup could be better. This implies to me that the photographer could have been a little more patient and taken better technical photos. The male side of me goes... well, here we have a photo of a woman ... and over here we have a photo of a 'supermodel.' Oddly, the woman and 'supermodel' are unquiely attractive. The woman is someone I would want to talk to, and the 'supermodel' is something I would want to put on my mantel piece and go... "look, see... pretty. Useless, but pretty." And, that I think is the inherent appeal of the 'supermodel' photo/image. Its a sad commentary on the male half of the speicies when many of them cant get past the 'look, see... pretty..." stage of their mental/emotional evolution.

I admit the techical skill with photoshop is very cool, but I've always said. ... "Give me a head, and any random body, and I can put that head and that body, anywhere in the world, doing anything ... and people will believe it."

As to what the 'supermodel' myth says about the mental space of women ... well, I guess women should comment on that.

And, dont mis-quote me here, I'm not saying the 'look, see... pretty' mentality is bad. It is after all the basis for a lot of art, but I am saying people should learn to keep that mentality in its place... with art.

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