A fascinating analysis of the editing done to photographs from Victoria's Secret was linked today from Boingboing:

Part I:
http://www.hackerfactor.com/blog/index.php?/archives/322-Body-By-Victoria.html

Part II:
http://www.hackerfactor.com/blog/index.php?/archives/329-The-Secret-is-Out.html

When I say "everything that's published in fashion magazines and advertising is edited", this is exactly what I'm talking about. It's not just the clumsily-removed handbag erased out, not just the gently-reshaped limbs and highlighted eyes and teeth and digitally plumped-up breasts, but a key thing that I often see but have a hard time identifying precisely, without the specific "before" photo or actual light set-up in front of me: All surfaces should have similar lighting. If her face is dark on one side and light on the other, then her arms should have the same pattern. However, this isn't what we are seeing. None of her body parts have proper lighting.

The author goes on to point out specific evidence for these alterations using a series of photo analysis tools that I've never seen before, a comparison of the model's skin tone in this and another photo, etc.

(Once again, I reiterate a point from previous conversations: such edited photos are morally neutral. Bad artistry, such as the removed handbag, sure is fun to mock, but I do not support any sort of creative limitations on what photographers and graphic designers may do to their work. I do, however, support educating the public so that we can be visually literate and easily realize the differences between fashion illustration and "real life". Websites such as the "hacker factor" are providing educational tools, and that's why I'm reposting it.)
daphnep: (big butt)
( Dec. 7th, 2009 08:41 pm)
[livejournal.com profile] lxbean made a point in my last "Visual Literacy" post, in a comment she said "maybe we're getting to a point where we can be liberated from the tyranny of these photos as ideal. ...Maybe if we got there, we could just say "ooh, pretty [if unrealistic] picture!" Kind of like we might say about a picture of a unicorn: pretty -- not real, but pretty."

She was referencing another blog entry (over here: http://twobodysolution.wordpress.com/2009/10/18/the-emaciation-proclamation/#more-370)...and I think she and Professor Bean are both right. In fact, it's exactly how I read fashion magazines: as cool illustrations, having little to do with my life or the reality I live in. It's also why I advocate blogs like "Photoshop Disasters" and why I think everyone should know the boundaries of what photo editing software can do--so that everybody can appreciate the pretty unicorns, and stop looking around for horned ponies, or even wasting their time saving up hard-earned money for one of their own.

To me, most photos I see in fashion mags look rather like the old Steve Madden ads:

Maddens chickie

Remember those? They're creepy, because you know they're stretched and distorted but they're still humanoid, and even cute. But you'd never, ever say "Oh, I think I'll diet until my legs look like that!" Would you? It'd be preposterous.

But these ads are different from others only because Madden's ad company was cheeky in the extreme. They didn't use any special tools or techniques, just the same ones we've been looking at for decades, now. But they stretched it far enough that we didn't have to be visually savvy to see through it.

More distorted pictures here, cut for size and quantity. )
Okay, in spite of being an admitted photoshop junkie, some of the wailing that happens when magazines, advertisers, etc. are "caught" editing their photos makes me roll my eyes and say "Oh, please."

As does the proposal of France passing a law that says images that have been edited need to carry a warning statement to alert their audiences to that fact, like a pack of cigarettes with a cancer warning.

A while back a YouTube video was being posted around wherein people were decrying the use of photo editing software, saying "But we didn't know we weren't looking at actual photos! We didn't know!" (I can't find the one that first got me going, now, because YouTube is so full of videos just like it. Watch a few, if you're so inclined...they're fascinating.)

Well, you are looking at actual photos, I'd say, the thing you didn't know (or try to deny) is that photos are not "real life", photos are art. Ceci n'est pas une pipe, and all that jazz.

And wearing my "art historian" hat, I always have to wonder, whenever I hear this statement, when did people stop knowing?

I look through the history of fashion magazines and advertising, in particular.

title or description

The American fashion consumer in 1933, for example, knew that the fashionable images on the covers of their magazines were artistic illustrations of feminine beauty, produced by the hand of an artist. The images may have been based on actual women, but they were largely a creation from the artist's mind, skillfully rendered in a way that would appeal to women who might buy the magazine (or the perfume, fashion, hosiery, and lipstick sold inside it).

More ahead, cut for lots of pictures )
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