Photoshopping, abrasive retouching, digital alteration, image manipulation...there are a few different terms for referring to the process of visually “perfecting” skin and/or bodies to achieve a look of what is deemed to be "beautiful" with the help of technology. It isn’t just fashion magazines which feature drastically graphically-altered images of models—it's widespread in social media content, television and film, it’s evident in advertising of so many brands...this practice is affecting images which can be seen nearly everywhere, across every form of media these days.
It’s no secret that most companies use Photoshop or other retouching methods on their models, but why is it considered so revolutionary when photos are not altered?
Jean Kilbourne Ed.D. (author, speaker, filmmaker internationally recognized for her work on the image of women in advertising) has dedicated the last 40 years of her life to studying the effects of media and advertising on body image. Through a series of articles, lectures, and films, Kilbourne has communicated about the detrimental affects of these altered images:
“It’s not just that we see these images once, or twice, or even a hundred times. They stay with us and we process them mostly subconsciously… [They create] an environment that surround us with unhealthy images and that constantly sacrifices our heath and our sense of well-being for the sake of profit. Ads sell more than products. They sell values, they sell images, they sell concepts of love and sexuality, of success, and perhaps most important, of normalcy. To a great extent, they tell us who we are and who we should be.”
Why should we, as consumers, care about this altered advertising? Because the statistics for negative body images continue to be staggering:
- Forty-two percent of girls in grades 1-3 want to be thinner.
- Fifty three percent of 13-year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies.
- Thirty percent of high school girls and 16 percent of high school boys suffer from disordered eating.
- By the time they’re 17, girls have seen 250,000 TV commercials telling them they should be aspire to be a sex object or have a body size they can never achieve.
- Seventy eight percent of 17-year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies.
- 25% of American men and 45% of American women are on a diet on any given day
Is it entirely the fault of Photoshopped ads that so many young people and adults have negative body images? No. Is it empowering and self-esteem building to see “real” people with all their “imperfections” embraced out in the open? Absolutely.
In the last decade, two magazines have followed suit in helping to encourage and embrace natural beauty:
- Seventeen Magazine stopped Photoshopping their models back in 2012 when Julia Bluhm, a 14 year old from Maine, organized a petition with over 84,000 signatures that demanded at least one unaltered photo spread per issue.
She won, and then some. Seventeen Magazine responded by pledging not to digitally alter body sizes or face shapes of young women featured in its editorial pages. This promise came with an editorial note from Seventeen’s then editor-in-chief Ann Shoket, including an eight-point Body Peace Treaty promising not to alter natural shapes and include only images of “real girls and models who are healthy.” Shoket further wrote: “While we work hard behind the scenes to make sure we’re being authentic, your notes made me realize that it was time for us to be more public about our commitment.”
- Independent magazine for adult women, Darling Magazine launched their “Real Not Retouched” campaign in print and on social media with the release of their Fall 2014 issue. Since then, the campaign has taken off with support from celebrities and thousands of Instagram photos posted with the #RealNotRetouched hashtag.
The magazine states their commitment to “Live out the Darling mission to never digitally alter a women and to challenge other publications to follow suit…let’s deliberately choose to notice beauty in ourselves and call out the same in those around us.”
Their website further outlines their stance on unaltered beauty, with a list of things that make them different from most magazines including promoting respect for women’s bodies in fashion and photography and never using Photostop to alter women’s faces or bodies. The magazine itself stands as a serious competitor to most mainstream print magazines, and with a combination of body positivity and authentic lifestyle magazine content.
Actress Kate Winslet has always been very outspoken on her stance against retouching her photographs for magazine spreads and ads, so it may not come as a huge surprise that the beauty spokesperson has also made it so her L'Oréal contract states that her Lancôme ads are free of any additional editing to her appearance.
"I think they(younger generation of women) do look to magazines, I think they do look to women who have been successful in their chosen careers and they want people to look up to, and I would always want to be telling the truth about who I am to that generation because they've got to have strong leaders. We're all responsible for raising strong young women, so these are things that are important to me."
Winslet has expressed these sentiments for years. Back in 2009, the celeb shared during an interview that she would ask photos be reverted to their original state after seeing her face retouched, and explained that aging doesn't have to be a bad thing.
...So what does all this have to do with The Sunset Sessions???
I've made it a priority here to focus on celebrating, highlighting natural beauty in the content of this blog, and any of the original work which we develop and share across all social media, brand platforms moving forward. Whenever approaching others to help provide and/or share content with us—we encourage others to only release visuals which don't incorporate skin, body retouching. Whenever commissioning new content or creating our own content—we discuss and plan in advance to avoid retouching skin in post as part of the post-production process, so we can help contribute images to society which help encourage raw beauty and honesty on a more widespread level. When we produce & create our own original editorials, we will continue to incorporate natural/organic beauty products, cosmetics by hair & make up artists who work within our creative/production teams and whenever absolutely possible when commissioned to work for external clients or brand collaborations. We will stand by this practice here at The Sunset Sessions in order to help communicate a heightened focus on greater positive body awareness and contribute more healthy, positive, real images to society.