Photoshop is a very powerful ally in our bag of retouching tricks and while the capabilities appear to fall just shy of curing disease, its power increases exponentially in direct correlation with subtlety. It is when retouching shifts from being an enhancer to a ‘perfecter’ that causes the program to become an enemy.
The false ideal of perfection is dangerous and we are only beginning to realize the damaging impacts on society cracking under the pressure from failing to meet these expectations. While the fashion and beauty industry has been at the forefront of scrutiny with its unrealistic beauty standards, a recent set of engagement photos showcasing a retouching job gone wrong show that fat shaming is very real and happens in everyday life.
As with anything, trends come and go and the quest for perfection is being met by a mob of opposition who are tired; tired of the pressure to fit in the glass box, tired of failing to meet and maintain the expectations, and essentially tired of feeling anything less than adequate. Even those who are deemed the most beautiful are tired of having their picture altered.
New York photographer Peter DeVito took inspiration from this cultural shift of self-acceptance and embraced the untapped exploration of less than ideal complexions. He created a series of self-portraits that focused on normalizing acne with temporary tattooed words such as “acne is normal” and “retouch” crossed out. Upon publishing his first un-retouched image DeVito states, “I felt relieved. I don’t know why this huge weight was on my shoulders.”
#AcneIsNormal – In 2017, I took barely any pictures of myself because I hated the way my skin looked. In 2018, I’m going to take as many as possible because even with my acne, I still look better than most of y’all headass bitches😏 *this is probably the last acne word portrait I’m doing of myself, but I’m going to pursue different projects that have to do with acne👌*
“I was really inspired because a lot of people on social media started posting things about body positivity and self-acceptance, but I felt like there was an absence of people with acne.”
The self-portrait project soon evolved into capturing portraits of others who also have acne in hopes of empowering others by showing that these ‘imperfections’ are more than acceptable – they’re normal. Devito’s Instagram posts have been flooded with comments of gratitude, thousands of likes and have been shared by the likes of Cara Delevigne who admits that she most likely wouldn’t have posted it while praising those who are brave enough to do so.
The societal spending force that drives the economy will continue to redefine what is beautiful and influence photography trends, and I have seen the impact firsthand with modeling agencies requesting images to be minimally retouched. Essentially, don’t create something that can’t be achieved sans the use of Photoshop. The goal is to create something beautiful that doesn’t fall into the previously biased and unrealistic beauty standard comprised solely of thin and youthful with dewy glowing skin.
This most recent stint of Photoshop awareness will more than likely continue to inspire raw and authentic images. It is a personal choice to use a better camera angle instead of the liquify tool and use a very light-handed approach when working skin, taking caution to only remove what is temporary such as a pimple or stray hair.
Going forward it may be best to have an open conversation with clients and ask what their expectations are in regard to a retouch as more and more people choose self-acceptance and celebrate their imperfections. Just because we can change something doesn’t mean that we should.