Saying Yes to a ‘No Retouching’ Policy
I recently did a shoot for Darling Magazine, a magazine that amongst many other great things, does not retouch women’s face, hair or body to look better. They might get rid of a weird hair on the sweater or a dirty fingerprint on the wall behind them but they don’t try to “improve” a photo by deleting a part of its subject.
It’s something to applaud, celebrate, and beg others to do. While this shoot, and this post, would typically embarrass the heck out of me (as it is doing right now) I’m so proud to promote a modern media company that is trying to give us a little bit of truth. Beware, there are a lot of photos of me, just staring at you, wrinkles and all.
This is not a fashion or beauty blog, but sometimes I wear clothes, get my makeup/hair done, and take some photos for magazines. Sometimes this is embarrassing because, sometimes, like this time, it looks like “Emily Von Wanna Model” took over the blog. She has bedroom eyes. She wears unflattering, yet fun art clothes. And she looks like she takes herself seriously . . . and maybe she does at times, especially when she is reminded that most men take themselves seriously all day, every day, so being serious about yourself every now and again is a good thing.
Most magazines, ads, catalogues or any professional photography typically photoshop out all “imperfections.” Any crows feet, under eye wrinkle, ripple of cellulite or even freckle never makes it onto the page, or on the website even, and instead it’s a practically pre-pubescent version of that celebrity or model. This isn’t their fault, the advertising industry started it, to sell us everything in the most “perfect” way possible. Then the entire photo industry followed suit because hey, youth sells. So now, there is nary a smile line in sight. As a society we are used to not seeing wrinkles on women anymore, especially women in the media, so when you do see these “imperfections” our collective response is woah, girlfriends looking OLD, when the truth is she simply wasn’t photoshopped as thoroughly as we are used to, and she’s actually looking her age. Women are airbrushed, even in films – frame by frame to delete any real normal “flaws” they have.
If it just stopped there it could be fine, but it’s done a bad thing. The photoshop generation (us) and every generation from here on out lacks a realistic perception of beauty (because we rarely see it), and because of that we are driven more and more to do desperate things to help prevent the natural aging process – surgeries, injections or just wasting $1500 a year on eye creams. It’s one big spiral that perpetuates itself and makes us obsessed. Despite said creams, we age (BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT HUMANS DO) and as we look at ourselves in the mirror we are increasingly bummed that we look so old, when really we just look our age or even a younger version of it.
At least I am bummed. This is not a personal indictment on anyone who gets things “done” – I am a victim/culprit of this, too. It’s not like I don’t want the girls lifted after I’m done nursing this baby. On a scale of 1 to vain, I’m probably a 7. I’m not sitting here touting 100% natural beauty. I like to get spray tans and wear fake lashes, too. It enhances me and makes me feel better, and I think it’s different than removing normal signs of aging and deleting my imperfections.
This is an indictment on the photography and advertising industry for retouching reality away – otherwise known as selling a lie. They do it so well and we eat it up. A lie that, sadly, we are forced to internalize, and a lie that silently judges and punishes each of us.
I’m hoping to see a backlash soon because retouching is reaching it’s saturation point as everybody and their chihauhua can do it on their stupid iPhone. I’m hoping that at some point soon everyone will be so sick of seeing airbrushed people that celebrities/women in the media will start to release photos of themselves un-retouched and, once they do, it will become cool for companies to not retouch their models and instead it will be considered really cheesy when they do. Then it will trickle down to us and the next generation of women.
I’m hoping it will go the way of tanning booths or fake boobs. For a while people, everyone, was sooooo overly tan that one day fair skin came back into fashion, and now it’s all balanced out. Maybe it’s more of a lesson in moderation of the retouching, not complete annihilation of photoshop. Again, I’m not a big chia smothering, kale drinking, coconut oil eating hippie. I’m just as vain as the next chick. I just want more moderation. Photoshop out the bruise, put up really flattering lights, pin the shirt in the right way, and shoot from an angle that is universally flattering, but don’t hire someone to delete parts of a woman’s face and pretend it’s natural.
Again, I’m not saying that I’m free of vanity and that I won’t (or you shouldn’t) take outside measures to make myself feel better (although hopefully I won’t) because ultimately I think how you look is trumped strongly by how you feel – and if doing some things makes you feel better than that is your prerogative.
What I am saying that I won’t be retouched on the blog. Other magazines will probably retouch me and those photos might be on the blog, but I won’t be doing that to our photos. Promise. We take out chords, stains on carpets, and lighten a photo, etc., but we don’t soften wrinkles. This is what we’ve done for two years (since my last headshots, which yes are retouched . . . I’m due for new ones).
Am I proud of my wrinkles? Not really. They generally bum me out because I feel way younger than I look (I’m 27 on the inside, and always will be). But I’m working on caring about it less, just being healthy, and trying to be a better role model for my kids. They are just wrinkles, they are mine, and they help me look as happy as I am.
I have a daughter now and I’m terrified that she is going to grow up judging herself much earlier and more extremely that I have (and yes, I realize that LA is certainly not the place to raise kids unless we are willing to fight this battle daily). So anything we can do to stop is a very good thing. We need better role models. Sure, we’ve got Meryl Streep, but very few others. We need more smart, funny, talented women in the public eye to show their natural beauty. They might get facials on a daily basis and put on lashes, but to me that’s different from trying to appear younger than you look by erasing away what is actually there.
So thanks, Darling for being one strong and simple voice in the world of perfectly airbrushed lies. More and more women are controlling the world and our voices can be heard on social media, even if our wrinkles are removed.
If you guys support this idea spread the word. #noretouching
For those of you who are bored of “the advertising world is lying to us” conversation and are just wondering where to get some cool silver shoes, then here you go :). Don’t forget to read the article I wrote about how to find your own style.