Lately there has been a ton of scrutiny placed on published photos of incredibly skinny models who are made to look even skinnier “in post”. The media has blown this issue up often publishing before and after photos of the same shoot illustrating how heavy-handed certain retouchers can be. In response, it seems the fashion world, and not high fashion, (heavens, no) but mainstream fashion like Lane Bryant, Ann Taylor and some magazines have begun to speak out about this practice and supposedly tone it down.
Additionally people—and by people, I mean celebrities (so not real people)—have been emphasizing how photoshop free they are! “Look at me! I’m fearless because I’m going on the cover of Vogue and I am telling those nasty retouchers to stay the hell away from this face!” Of course, these celebrities are drenched in make-up, work out 6 hours a day and eat leaves, but that is beside the point!
Clearly all these half-assed responses to the photoshopping problem are PR clean-ups and such. But, hey, if the end result means little girls don’t look at waifs with unreasonably smooth body parts and wish to Jebus that they could have smooth body parts just like their emaciated counterparts, then I’m okay with this.
Anywho – I’m blabbing because Jezebel featured an article about a particular portrait of Sophie Dahl by David LaChapelle and how freakin’ photoshopped the final image was.
What was once a grittier, realistic portrayal of a size 14 woman, became a glitzy, contrasty and flashy version of a seemingly thinner-than-size-14-woman.
Now listen, nothing pisses me off more than the emphasis on disgustingly thin women as the ideal of beauty. It’s unrealistic, its bad for the female psyche and its unhealthy in so many ways. This picture, however, may be photoshopped and post-production-ed up the wazoo, but this is not an example of the aforementioned offenses. This is David LaChappelle, people. As one Jezebel commenter so astutely pointed out, LaChapelle is more a “fine artist” than a production artist or retoucher. And this is true, in my opinion. If you look at any of his celebrity work, you will clearly see how outrageous and unrealistic most, if not all, his subjects become after the actual photograph is taken.
Let’s find some good ones for you:
Elton John, flying high in a sea of cherries and cheetahs. Oh, and bananas:
The same woman, Amanda, as Andy Warhol’s Liz and Marilyn Monroe:
And Christina Aguilera after falling into a Lisa Frank illustration:
So the point is, I don’t think Sophie Dahl was exactly misrepresented here. Her photo ended up looking different because that’s what LaChapelle does. His work is created in the studio and on the computer and he makes some pretty cool stuff. Even if you don’t like his work, you can admit he has a distinct, consistent style and Dahl’s portrait fits right into his general aesthetic.
I would like to ad that I prefer the original version of the photo to the published, flashier one. It has a quality to it that is refreshing, right? It also makes me happy to see butts looking like real butts and a portrait of a real-life, normal human being.