Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Photoshopping Our Depictions of Reality

Ashley Thomas

When we think of photoshopping scandals our minds go to celebrities and models, being slimmed down or whitewashed for magazine covers, but the issue is widespread among all media related industries.

As discussed in the article "Distorted Picture", when asking a room full of photojournalists if they believed to have ever worked with someone crossed thee ethical boundaries, almost every person raised their hand. Whether it be adding a tree or removing people from images it has become a commonality. As readers we expect that what we see and what we read is accurate and factual representations of reality. When these photographers alter pictures they alter our depiction of normalcy.

For instance, in 2014 people flocked to the internet to criticize Target for their edit of a teenage model in a swimsuit. Not only did they shrink down her left arm but they also gave her a gigantic box gap, eliminating a part of her crotch. This photoshop fail was quickly taken down from their site but still the issue remains intact.

Roberto Blake

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, over one-half of teenage girls use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, vomiting or taking laxatives and it's no wonder! This site and many others constantly put up highly edited pictures of young women in order to make her seem skinny! Thus, these pictures form an unrealistic image of what young girls should look like and it's just not right.

This epidemic of photoshopping already thin girls has been going on for years and so has the conversation about the ethical boundaries with it. In 2006, Dove released a time-lapsed video showing how distorted these images truly are. While this video has gotten a lot of exposure little progress has been made in regulating photoshop in the fashion industry.


A big win though came in 2012 when an online petition, created by an 8th grader, demanded that Seventeen magazine "give girls images of real girls" for a month. The petition got so much coverage that the magazine agreed to stop excessively photoshopping their models.

As discussed by Al Tompkins on Pointer, altering society's perception of people through images has also become a major issue in politics. Though the article discusses lighting and framing of presidential candidates I couldn't help but think back to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett's photoshop snafu in 2014. During his run for reelection, Corbett's campaign placed a stock image of an African American woman into one of the pictures in hopes of rising his popularity with minorities. The story of a seemingly small election scandal went viral after Stephen Colbert mocked the picture on "The Colbert Report."

While Toledo Blade's executive editor Ron Royhab, discusses how the major issue here is breaking the ethical code of honesty, I beg to differ. In my opinion, the main issue with photo manipulation is not honesty, it's trust. We intrust reporters, editors and so many others with our faith that they will give us correct and accurate depictions of events and by publishing these pictures that inaccurately distort our perceptions of society they are breaking our trust.

1 comment:

  1. Samantha Schilder
    Sept. 18th 2015

    Ashley, great post! I was drawn to your post because of the Dove campaign. I remember when the real beauty campaign was released and the immediate attention it got. The evolution of transformations in beauty goes unnoticed through the use of photo shop as you mentioned. In your conclusion you restated how trust is lost when using photo manipulation which is a great point, who do we believe in any case? Photography or journalism.