Retouch or not retouch: that is the question
Arguments on whether to retouch or not came along with new trends in natural beauty. We all saw tons of gossipy magazines and websites posting photos of celebrities and famous models in articles with headlines like “How they look without Photoshop” showing their real life faces and bodies which sometimes could be dramatically different from what we see on the covers of the fashion magazines. Of course, those who’s one and only ideal of beauty was the editorial image would now get sick of artificial bodies on the pages. At some point the word Photoshop can even have a judgemental taste to it. And I don’t even know what makes people more frustrated in this situation - that their favorite celebrities were hiding their imperfections, or that they are just as imperfect as anyone else, which takes the illusion of perfection away.
On one side of the coin, it is unfair to fool people by selling them fake images of fake people in order to push them into spending more on products that are meant to make them ideal. On the other side, our life would be so dull if we rejected everything that would bring everyday life closer to dreams. We are people and are able to make anything an object of both desire and hate, at the same time. What matters is each person’s perception.
Yes, we have the right to know the real situation, we have the right to be honest with ourselves and others, we have the right to love ourselves beyond any stereotypical delusions. And yes, I am the first one who will eye roll when seeing those sparkling edited images of the women with obviously extended boobs, twice longer legs and white as an Alaskan snow teeth. I can see the difference in fake from unfake in seconds because I do it for a living - I am a professional retoucher.
But I am also an artist. I graduated from art school and from this perspective I confess, there is a beauty in imperfections but we all choose which imperfection we want to see. Youth is beautiful but if I would paint a portrait of a teenager I would never display their acne. No one would! Unless it’s a modern artist who is painting pimples and selling it to modern art collectors. There is beauty in the wrinkles too, they are the footprints of wisdom, but the artist would choose which wrinkles to expose.
Why? Because any image is just a reflection of reality, it is not real by definition. Have you ever wondered why sometimes when you look in the mirror you look fabulous, but then you take a selfie and you look extremely different? This is because the camera is not our eyes, it does not represent us the way we see ourselves. Even the latest and most expensive cameras will only give you the highest resolution mechanical perception of you. Our brain is able to focus on just a few details at once, but cameras give us everything at once. Plus, it distorts colors - and even forms - sometimes. We all know that camera gives you an extra ten pounds, don’t we?
Also, continuing the artist talk, when an artist paints a person she focuses on one’s personality, and if she shows too many details she’ll lose the person and will get a perfect realistic image without a human spirit presented. The same story with photographs where the goal is to create a portrait of the soul, not just an outlook.
There is a thin line between exposing the person with no distracting details and making another person that doesn’t have any relationship to the one who was captured. This is the trend of the early 2000s that we can see on the shelves of the women’s magazines and in personal galleries. Certainly, it misleads us, and especially the younger generation, who is so sensitive to everything the world is about to offer.
That’s why it is important to find the balance in everything. Since we are those who can influence it, it is our goal to prevent further deluding. Identical facial features, identical proportions, stretched length of the body parts, slimmed shapes - this is not what retouching was meant for.
It is a great tool for correction and art purposes which was used even in the 19th Century. However, how it is being used now depends on the purpose of the particular image being made.
Sure, retouching can be used as an act of propaganda by media and fashion industry, but let’s not forget that the root purpose is to create a cleaner image that bring more beauty into the world.