August 21, 2010

Jennifer Aniston’s Inadvertent Lesson in Photography

As a photographer, when some of the raw images of Jennifer Aniston’s 2006 Harper’s Bazaar photo shoot emerged, I was relieved. I ended up in photography by accident when I started shooting local Los Angeles bands for fun two years ago. Since I have no extensive formal photo training and have learned mostly through experience, I feel some insecurity regarding my technical skill. Seeing how Alexi Lubomirski’s outtakes mirrored some of my own was reassurance that I am, in fact, doing everything right. A cursory glance through his portfolio reveals a body of work that is thoughtful, exploratory, and beautiful (Not surprisingly, his conceptual photography is a lot more engaging than his editorial shoots). It appears as though he has worked with Jennifer Aniston before, producing luminously gorgeous if shallow images of the actress. Indeed, sometimes simply creating an indulgently beautiful image is gratifying, a sentiment that often guides my own work.

Whether or not the outtakes are actually doctored seems to be just a petty legal argument designed to protect Hollywood’s middle school egos. When I first encountered the outtakes, they seemed like the logical by-products of any photo shoot – especially a shoot involving unpredictable natural elements such as sunlight and sand, and I could not understand the uproar they generated. I suspect that the sometimes harsh reactions originate from a total misunderstanding of photography in general, so I have attempted to recreate the settings which I imagine contributed to the Harper’s Bazaar outtakes and subsequent published image.

August 1, 2010

Are Belly Buttons The New Armpits? Photoshop Seems To Think So…

Filed under: Body Image,Media — Tags: , , , , , — Rachel @ 3:30 pm

So a few months ago, I brought up the fact that armpits are the latest in a string of bodily flaws of women that needs to be airbrushed out.  After the photos of Lindsay Lohan in German GQ got released, where her belly button is missing in one shot, and then is suddenly moved up to her ribcage in another, I figured it was, yes, horrifying but a hopefully a one-time thing, not a new trend.  However, this weekend, I came across pictures of Jersey Shore star Jenni “J-WOWW” Farley  in the latest issue of Maxim magazine – and guess what’s missing in the bikini, midsection baring shots?

I can’t help but wonder – with imperfect: bruises, blemishes, cellulite, tattoos, arms, legs, waists, butts, hips, thighs, calves, noses, wrinkles, hair, and armpits, all deemed unacceptable by the magazine photoshopper standards in their natural state – what’s next?  What’s left?  While pondering this question, I honestly couldn’t think of anything else that hasn’t been airbrushed at some point, on some female celebrity; image editors have “fixed” absolutely every aspect of the female form at some point.  I’m beginning to wonder why take photographs at all?  Why pay a celebrity, photographer, lighting, hair, make-up, and an entire crew of assistants, if the end result is never good enough.  How long before we see entirely computer generated images of celebrities on the covers of magazines?  Only time will tell.

June 7, 2010

This is What a Real Woman Looks Like

This student created video is the follow-up to the in-class body collage assignment that begged the question, “What does a real woman look like?” (See The Daily Femme for their analysis of the body collage project, Questioning the Magazine Industry’s Ideal of Female Beauty Through the Power of Photographs).

The students’ statement about their project:

Today we’re inundated with images of a false reality that concentrate on one ideal form of beauty. Altering images via Photoshop, ultimately exposes us to millions of images are not “real.” Our project takes a look at the dangers of the media, from Photoshopping to white-washing to an emphasis on an unattainable perfection. Collectively, the images in the media do not represent the diversity found in the larger population; not all women are tall, thin, white, heterosexual or young. And in real life, nobody is Photoshopped. Where are representations of “real” women?

The advertising industry sells us images directly aimed women’s mounting insecurities. The for-profit consumer culture exploits these insecurities and rakes in billions of dollars each year. Ultimately, these images dehumanize, hypersexualize and disempower women.

Having struggled with our own body image issues and eating disorders, we know first hand the amount of pressure the media can exert on women and the psychological and physical costs. We wanted to address the serious nature of these issues and focus on the importance of a healthy body image.

Part of our video was inspired by our in-class project, the body collage that covered two walls from floor to ceiling with images of women in the print media. We were shocked to see the onslaught of these homogeneous all at once. This experience inspired our project as well as the Feminist Majority Foundation campaign, “This is what a feminist looks like.” Ultimately, our statement “this is what a real woman looks like” is a reaction to the exclusion of women in the mass media and the erasing of age, race and authenticity as a result of the standard industry practice of altering women that already reflect an incredibly small percentage of the population.

The video is a mosaic of our own stories; our struggles with our own body image, our relationship with our bodies and our message of self-love and acceptance.

This video was created as a final project in Women’s Studies 30: Women and Pop Culture with Melanie Klein at Santa Monica College (this video is also featured at Jezebel). Thanks to students of this fledgling class for their dedication, motivation and hard work. For more posts related to this class, see Body Image: A Personal Story, Young Women Speak Out About “The Curse,” Violence Against Women: The Clothesline Project Video, Student Activism Breaks the Silence Around Violence,  and Social Media and Feminism in the Classroom and Beyond.

May 1, 2010

Little (photo)shop of horrors

Filed under: Media — Tags: , — Melanie @ 5:59 pm

The latest Sex and the City 2 movie poster has been making its way around the internet (and, believe me, its not all about the hype). One of my twitter allies, @VoiceinRecovery, sent me the link that provided the first glimpse.

Whoa. What a photoshop freak show!

For commentary, check out  @Jezebel and @JulesyParker, each point out the glaring problems in their posts. What do you see?

April 16, 2010

Add this to your list of unacceptable body parts: your armpits

Rachel O:

The media, in a series of editing moves, has now deemed them unacceptable and unfit for public consumption.

I’ve wanted to write this piece for awhile and, in light of Britney Spears releasing unretouched photos of herself for the Candie’s campaign, decided it was time.  Unfortunately I wasn’t very surprised by the things “enhanced” on Spears’ body – the usual suspects: cellulite, tattoos, blemishes, bruises, slimming of hips, thighs, waist, etc.  But lately there’s been a new body part deemed unacceptable by the photo editors at magazines, record labels, etc. – armpits.  That’s right ladies, the area under your arm, even when clean shaven has been deemed far too hideous for general public consumption.

I first noticed the trend, while reading Jezebel, as is usually the case with these kinds of things.  They posted the cover of British GQ where Anne Hathaway seems to be missing something.  Her armpit isn’t just hairless and smoothed by some moisturizing deodorant – it’s not there at all.  Just completely gone, just torso side and…arm, with nothing in between.  Since then, I’ve come to notice it in other places as well:

Photo stills of Lady Gaga’s music video Telephone:

A Kim Kardashian exercise line campaign:

A photoshoot for Harper’s Bazaar with Megan Fox:

and finally a Sports Illustrated spread:

Apparently that pesky underarm area hinders exercising, dancing, posing, and uh, swimming.

Now it’s just another thing that’s been added to a list of things for the resident photoshopper at any magazine, PR firm, etc. to check off their list, but I think the issue is much bigger than that.   Men don’t have to deal with the same “image enhance everything” that is so prevalent when it comes to actresses and pop stars.  For example, when Leonardo DiCaprio appeared on the cover of Esquire Magazine, all his stubble, lines, and wrinkles were left intact.  For women, this new underarm thing is another flaw that someone in a board room somewhere has decided is not worthy of publication – it must be fixed.  It is another issue for women to worry about – another thing for girls to look at and wonder “why don’t I look like that?” and “what can I do to fix it?”  These images eventually become the norm, what we think women really look like, or are supposed to.

Anyone who thinks it’s not a big deal? We’re living in a world where  Jessica Simpson going without make-up is a big deal.  And Glamour publishing a picture of a woman with a belly roll is considered a revolution.   So, yeah it’s a problem.  We’re in a publishing age, where someone in charge somewhere, looked at a Jennifer Lopez magazine cover, a Ralph Lauren ad, and an image in Maxim Mexico and said “perfect, send that to the printer!”

We need a lot less this:

And a lot more this:

March 21, 2010

Breaking: Victoria's Secret Models Love Their Bodies


Guest post by Rachel O:

So plenty of criticism has been thrown Victoria’s Secret way in the past few years.  They’ve been criticized for advertising that seems to be made for men instead of their female customers, stealing, and sometimes going overboard with photoshop, but what bothers me the most is their new ad campaign.  (more…)