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Baz Luhrman was right; beauty magazines really do make you feel ugly. And this was said in 1999 before the big boom of digital photography and photo manipulation. Has it always been this way though? Must a beauty magazine and its inflicted insecurity come hand in hand? Well yes, the idea of supreme beauty has always been the aim of magazine editors, with the desired styles and looks of featured women to be admired – that’s one of the magazine’s main selling points. A single photograph can be so inspirational to another, it’s no surprise that the threshold of quality is so high; photography can’t really progress well without this high threshold and great technique. The main problem that comes with it now though is what people deem as high quality and how the ways in which we photograph people has changed. Nowadays, the journey of a photograph doesn’t end once the lens shutter has captured the moment, this is only the beginning of the voyage.
Fashion will never be the same but the differences with today’s fashion is that the looks portrayed throughout the decades, right up until the birth of Photoshop in the noughties were much more achievable by their readers than they are now. Digital manipulation and adamant photo editing nowadays means that the ideal woman is a robotised, manufactured, unreal form. And this is where the insecurity comes in, the realisation that we cannot perfect that image, no matter how hard we try. Because we are not perfect. This means girls are now left feeling self-conscious and over-aware of their appearance, not realising that the photograph they gaze ahead at on the glossy page bares few similarities to that person looks in real life.
We can no longer embrace an imperfection and use it to our advantage in a creative way, we feel the need to reduce our appearance to a list of ticked boxes, there’s no room for variety. Even without Photoshop, digital photography means one can take and re-take a photograph until their satisfied, the threshold of perfection is heightened. Yes digital photography comes with its large benefits, and as it’s virtually impossible to live without it in the age of online and digital media, there is no valid argument to dismiss it. But not only are more and more people choosing to ignore the basic but attractive effects of 35mm film, they are finding the need to edit an image to an unrecognisable state. Photography has always influenced our perceptions of image and beauty though and while it shouldn’t be dismissed as a negative influence, perhaps we should question the direction in which digital media is taking our society.
We have all been there though, when I found Photoshop at the age of 14, I spent hours opening images of me and my friends, editing them within an inch of their life using air brushing tools, colour balance and even the ever amusing ‘liquify’ tool where I had the ability to melt my face into interesting monster-like forms.
“The warmth that sepia portrays is softer to the eye because the reddish tones are closer to real flesh colour than black and white and are therefore deemed attractive,” says photographer Jerry Lebens.