chantal stone photography: the blog

August 17, 2007

The Concept of Beauty

Filed under: internet,Personal,Photography — chantal @ 10:16 am

The other day on The Online Photographer there was an interesting discussion about the concept of beauty, and particularly society’s warped concept of beauty. TOP linked to this website that shows interesting ‘before and afters’ that are done to models and actors with photoshop (roll over images with your mouse to see the effect). The results are quite profound.

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Aside from the usual adjustments in lighting and contrast, Kelly Clarkson has obviously shed a few pounds sometime between the shoot and the final print. Amazing. It’s no wonder so many young girls and women are plagued with low self-esteem and body image issues. We are bombarded on a daily basis of images that aren’t even real.

The idea of photoshopped celebrities is certainly not new, and hopefully by now most people looking through magazines realize this…but as a mother of two young girls, I find this disconcerting. My 10 yr old daughter is just now beginning to look through fashion and teen magazines, and I’ve explained to her how the photos she’s looking are manipulated. But still, I wonder and worry about what damage might be done to her precious self-esteem.

I’m not criticizing the use of photoshop of those who use it to create these images….my critique is directed towards a society who craves them and who does not object this impossible ideal of beauty. One of the commenters on the TOP article writes (in response to another comment that criticized the re-touching):

“…I think you’re undercutting the creativity and talent demonstrated by high quality retouching. Blame for the homogeneity of celebrity portraiture should lie squarely on what the publicists request, what the public expects, and, more broadly, on what our culture calls beautiful. […] (A note about my cred: I worked as a celebrity retoucher for a bit more than a year before I got tired of wasting my Art and making fourteen year olds anorexic.)…”

Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty tries to rectify this phenomena. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the website and see this provocative video here.

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Some more rather amazing transformations can be seen here. But these demonstrate a photographers ability to adapt and create images that are needed for a client when the conditions are less than perfect…or in some cases non-existent.

As a photographer, this brings up an interesting point. I want to make my clients look their best, and I could certainly apply the same techniques used above, but I don’t want to. I don’t want to be part of the problem, but rather, part of the solution. Making people look beautiful as they are, showing a woman how beautiful she really is, showing her natural beauty in a way that perhaps she hadn’t seen herself in before, bringing out the best in a person; that is what I try to do.

It’s time we said “enough” of fake, impossible beauty and learn to love ourselves for our natural selves. That’s my goal as a photographer, and most importantly, as a mother.

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