Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Seeing Is Believing ... That Perfection Is a Reality

Zulfa Rizqiya

The ability to make things appear and disappear used to only be a concept of magic--if we wanted to have our eyes deceived, we would pay to see a magician.  Today, it seems as if we don't have to seek this type of deception as we are constantly exposed to images produced by photographers who virtually wield the magic of a wand through Photoshop.

"Who Can Improve on Nature? Magazine Editors," an article from The New York Times, presents the ethical issues surrounding edited photographs in magazines.  To some photographers, editing photographs through Photoshop is merely a way to enhance the subject.  However, as one edit follows the other, photographers may be doing more than just making enhancements; photographers may be changing reality.

As photographers master the skill of Photoshop, they have the ability to make drastic edits look subtle or even untouched.  Because of this deception, we are led to believe that what is displayed in magazines is achievable.  Sure, it's achievable if you've got six hours to spare for retouching.

Source: RARE Digital Art YouTube

The ethic in the middle of this controversy is honesty.  By presenting retouched images, are photographers being dishonest to the audience?

Photographers aren't the sole culprits in the Photoshop controversy.  Many photographers place honesty at the top of their own personal ethics but must act against their personal ethics in order to please clients.

For photographers who choose to abide by their personal ethics rather than their clients, the consequences can be costly.  In the article, Chris Buck, a celebrity photographer, shared an anecdote where he found himself losing business due to refusing to allow his subjects to prescreen his shots.  The reason behind Buck's approach was to avoid influence from clients, such as suggestions for enhancements, when he would rather have his photographs look as natural as possible.

Would it even be possible to start publishing untouched images in a world that is already saturated with retouched images?  An anonymous retoucher revealed to Fashionista, "100 percent of what's in fashion magazines is retouched."  Since we expect every photograph in magazines to under the Photoshop treatment, it may not even be a question of ethics for photographers to decide to retouch, rather a protocol they're expected to follow. 

Whether or not Photoshop is an ethical issue, Photoshop has exerted a great amount of pressure for people to meet the standards of beauty portrayed in magazines.  The pressures of Photoshop have transcended the pages to our mobile devices, specifically through channels like Instagram.  We are not alone when it comes to feeling the pressure of enhancing our pictures with the most flattering filters; celebrities feel just as much pressure to maintain the magazine portrayals of them, resorting to more than just filters.

Photoshop has caused many to seek a perfection that isn't attainable.  While many blame photographers for this unethical photo treatment, there is always a client behind their decisions who they are trying to please.  Whether or not it is a photographer's responsibility to refuse using Photoshop in order to present honest images to the audience, the damage and impact of Photoshop on our culture's expectations will be hard to change.

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