Thursday, October 24, 2013

Photoshop: Art or a Hazard?

Source: Wikimedia Commons
“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity” (Albert Einstein).

Repeated exposure to photoshopped images in the media has the potential to damage girls’ mental and physical health in terms of body image and self esteem. When the first camera came out, a photo was a photo. There was not any kind of technology back then to enable photo alteration, so it’s not like somebody could look at a photo and think, wow, they totally enlarged her boobs, or those abs aren’t real. Nowadays, a picture can be a lie. New software has allowed us to alter or manipulate images as we please, and this can be dangerous because of course if a picture is obviously fake we can recognize it, but if, let’s say, a human belly was slimmed down an inch or two, or if breasts were slightly enlarged, would we really be able to tell? The answer to that question is… well, no. Day after day we are exposed to airbrushed photos, and we begin to believe that is what beautiful is.

“Children and teens are particularly vulnerable to ‘perfect’ models” (Carolyn Landis). Body awareness begins at a young age, and exposure to airbrushed photos causes young girls to strive for a perfection that can’t be reached. In fact, studies have shown correlations between this exposure and symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. “Among youth 18 and under, breast augmentations increased nearly six-fold between 1997 and 2007” (Miss Representation), which shows that these manipulated images can also encourage and glorify things such as plastic surgery by “perpetuating an unachievable aesthetic” (Baroness Kingsmill). Girls grow up idolizing these fake photos and the celebrities in them, and when they can’t meet these expectations of beauty that have manifested over extended exposure to airbrushed pictures, they feel inadequacy and self-hatred.

The next way that girls are affected by manipulated images also happens to be a growing problem in the US. What do we think of when we think, model? What characterizes them? The first thing that comes to mind for me, and I’m sure many other people, is tall and skinny. Very skinny. Heck, when I buy a Vogue magazine feeling like a confident, thin girl, I finish it feeling fat. Although photo manipulation very seriously affects girls’ mental health, it can also take a potentially fatal toll on their physical health; they could develop an eating disorder. “Body image issues- that are precursors to eating disorders- develop earlier than you think” (Erik Fisher). Fashion photos airbrushed to near-perfection can plant seeds for stereotypes that to be beautiful you have to look straight off of Elle magazine, and combined with this pressure to be perfect it can easily drive a teenage girl over the edge; a simple diet turning into something much more dire. In fact, a shocking “65% of American women and girls report disordered eating behaviors” (Miss Representation). These numbers are too dramatic to ignore, and it could even be considered a health issue. It is not okay for these girls to have to go through this, to feel miserable both on the inside and out. Before Adobe software was available, cosmetic procedures were highly rare for anyone to get them, yet now we live in a society where youth 18 and younger being operated on is relatively normal.This is a problem, America. How about we take a stand for our daughters or friends or relatives who could be affected by this?

However, there is another side to this coin. In fact, some call Photoshop a feminist’s "best friend". There have been claims made that society assumes women are weak and looks-obsessed, when in fact they’re not, and that arguments of why photoshop is not healthy is based on the assumption that women and girls as a whole are neurotic and jealous. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Many women would say that they are strong and independent, and are able to look at an airbrushed photo and think, that’s fake, without going home and skipping dinner. Women look beyond physical appearance and can be sister-like, it’s just modern society that says women are distraught and will shatter at the thought of another woman being more attractive than themselves. Not only that, but tabloids make millions off of releasing candid photos of celebrities looking far from how you see them on the red carpet, and these "candid snaps" are nearly as popular as the ones in a fashion magazine. This is definitely something to consider, but it doesn’t change the facts.

According to Miss Representation, “cosmetic procedures performed on youth 18 and younger have more than tripled from 1997 to 2007” and “liposuctions nearly quadrupled in the same ten-year period". Those facts are real, and there are no signs of them getting any smaller any time soon unless we do something about it.

Reflection: Overall, I really enjoyed doing this project. It educated me on the digital world, and has introduced me to possible solutions to conflicts that I would have never thought of. Reading my peers' blogs was especially interesting for me, bringing light to different problems and helping  to educate me on those problems so I could develop a solid opinion. I wrote my blog about the hazards of prolonged exposure to photoshopped images to young girls, and I think that this remains a huge problem in the digital world. People are using software to change the appearances of models to an inhuman perfection, and it is hugely beneficial for advertising. On my blog, I received some great and helpful comments! Constructive criticism and prompts helped me to further build on my argument, such as potential solutions to this problem, which I had not talked about very much in my blog. Unfortunately, I didn't find that all of the comments were quite so useful, some seemed rushed and were neither helpful nor constructive. Many of the comments were in general similar, and I had already done lots of research on my topic so I did not have to do much research to answer the blog comments. Primarily, they asked about potential solutions and pointed out their effect on men, not just women. None of them really argued another point, so I didn't really change my mind about anything.

10 comments:

  1. I very much appreciate this post. Hearing from a young woman it is clear that the impact of manipulated images impacts women across age ranges and cultures. As a 27 year old female I can relate to the problems posted by a photo-shop society for individuals, in general, trying to fit a near impossible standard. Upon reading your post I did some research regarding these type of influences in the past. You cited in your article that the use of plastic surgery has drastically increased from 1997 to 2007, as well as the increase of eating disorders, anxiety, depression and other mental health problems. Today I was researching and I found two images from "TIME" magazine 1966. One with the headline "dropping a few pounds will make you lighter on your feet" with a thin, beautiful woman jumping in the air, and another an ad for "Maidenform Nighttime Bra" in which the advertisement said "Every woman should wear a bra to firm and lift her figure during the night as well as the day!" It is clear these powerful messages from the media, that women, as we are, are not enough has existed for many many years, and through Photo-Shop is just continuing to evolve. Regarding the research of the prevalence of eating disorders, it is also possible that they are reported more often now, than in the past. I believe that the Photo-Shop problem is simply a more technologically advanced problem, part of a problem that already existed, that unless you fit this near-impossible mold, you are not beautiful. You finish your post by saying that these misrepresentations of normal, are not getting any smaller and that we must do something about it. What are some potential suggestions as to ways we may be able to lessen the impact of this historical battle with the media's definition of perfection?

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  2. The magazine "Verily" is trying to make a difference by going Photoshop-free, promising to use no Photoshop whatsoever to alter the bodies or facial structure of their models. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/10/verily-magazine-no-photoshop_n_4079217.html

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  3. In your essay I like how you write about how Photoshop is destroying young women's' self esteem, and how girls are doing everything to become "beautiful". But how is this effecting men? I think this is effecting men because when men look in a magazine and they see I man who is very muscular and strong and everything else a man is supposed to be in our society. And that can make a guy's self esteem and self confidence go down. And I think that is how it can effect a guy just like how it effects women.

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    1. I completely agree with you, although I primarily focused on girls in this blog, photoshop is definitely affecting men! Male models along with female models are photoshopped to an inhuman extent. Rates of depression amongst young men has also significantly increased in the past couple of years, and to say that women are more exposed to it than men would be a lie. Men are definitely also at risk, and I think that is a topic that should also be addressed.
      Thanks! -Thing4

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  4. Hello, the blog you wrote was great. Some of my friends are into photoshop, making their eyes big or their face smaller. In the blog you said that photoshop is destroying people's self-esteem. Do you think that photoshop should be banned that people can't alter their bodies or facial structure? I don't think photoshop should be banned for altering their bodies or facial structure because it is people's choice to do photoshop to make themselves look pretty. Thank you for this blog and I would love to hear what you think.

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    1. Hi Lovely Park! Thank you for commenting, I absolutely do not think that photoshop should be banned. It is a form of art, and it would be wrong to take that away. However, I think photoshopped images should have a label on them because everyone has the right to know exactly what they are seeing, especially if it is in the form of an ad.
      Thanks! -Thing4

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  5. Hello I really liked your post. When you said air brushed photos can lead to low self esteem I completely agreed with you. Many girls are trying so hard to be "perfect" that they will cry if they see other girls who are skinnier or prettier. What really struck me was cosmetic surgeries on youth 18 and younger have tripled from 1997 to 2007. I never knew that teens/ kids were getting cosmetic surgeries at such a young age. Do you think that Photoshop is a bad thing?

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  6. Dear Ting 4, your essay brought up many good points and gave the reader a balance of pros and cons. As a photoshop user I do believe that photoshop is not a bad thing and can be thought of as an art. Like you said though photoshop can be used to alter ones image. Depending on how you look at this it is a good thing or a bad thing which you provide plenty to support both. From a marketing standpoint the use of photoshop to help sell their product is not bad. Some might just say its business. How do you feel about that? But like you mentioned a altered photo is like a lie, it’s not the real thing. I liked the way you related this to how young girls see these photos and strive to be like those models. As you mentioned it is practically impossible! What should be done to prevent the issue of girls trying to look like these photoshopped models? Citation that the photo is photoshopped? Overall I enjoyed reading your essay and look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely, FI-Jiber.

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    1. Thank you for commenting! I think that it is a great business strategy, I mean if you see a product or piece of clothing and the ad promises that if you use this or wear it you will look like the impossibly perfect human on the screen, how could you say no? But is that a good reason to put peoples' health at risk? I don't think so. Citing pictures that are photoshopped would be a great solution. It wouldn't limit artists' abilities to use photoshop for art but it would also let viewers know exactly what they're looking at and whether it is a real person or not, which I think every person has the right to know.
      Thanks! -Thing4

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  7. You've generated a lot of discussion with this post, Thing4, well done! In looking at "what can be done?" about excessive Photoshop in advertising, I would encourage you and other readers to look at the ASA in Great Britain. The Advertising Standards Authority is the "UK's independent regulator for advertising across all media." This agency has actually taken steps to ban misleading advertising, particularly in the cosmetic industry. (see here) In the US, it is the Federal Trade Commission's job to work for us "to prevent fraud, deception, and unfair business practices in the marketplace." The FTC does have a Division of Advertising Practices within the Bureau of Consumer Protection. But despite studying the negative impact of false advertising, it doesn't seem like they are doing much to regulate altered images. How could we pressure our governmental agencies to get more involved?

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