“–even better than the real thing”

Having once spent long hours in Photoshop touching up a series of glamour shots, I always look at the magazine covers in the supermarket check-out line with a healthy slice of bemused skepticism. Sometimes the touch-ups are so obvious it’s amazing they can get away with it – expanses of skin reduced to amorphous blobs of undifferentiated beige; facial features fading, ghostlike, into hair. I have to remind myself sometimes that not everyone views them with such a critical, or practiced, eye.

For those who take the faces at (ahem) face value, there is now a useful corrective. You’ve probably seen it by now: Dove’s brilliant new bit of viral marketing, The Campaign for Real Beauty.

The funny thing is, while viewing that video my first reaction was not indignation at the dishonesty of the finished product, but rather admiration for the people who create that product. Surely, this is a new and as-yet unrecognized art form all it’s own? Art has attempted to mimic the human form for millenia; but now it takes the human likeness as a starting point and subtly changes it into something idealized, iconic. At it’s best, it is as demanding, as ingenious, and as arresting in it’s effect as any other great art.

Fashion photography shouldn’t be seen as reality; but it shouldn’t be denigrated either. It’s a legitimate art form in it’s own right.

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  1. Actually, it’s a very old art form. Painters did it for centuries.

    Photography just eliminated the ability to easily edit someone’s flaws out. And photoshop is just restoring that ability to artists. Therefore it was natural that it’d be brought in again.


    1. Yeah, maybe I didn’t say it clearly enough: I’m not saying that the idealization of the human form is new. I’m saying that in the past, artists worked towards the human form from undifferentiated raw materials like oil and clay. This is the first age in which they have taken a perfect digital likeness as a starting point, and worked backwards towards the ideal, so to speak.

      1. Very true…

        After having reached perfection in our capture of the human form, we have realized that we are none to please. Now we are endeavoring to reach perfection of human form in our capture.


  2. Apparently I missed something… you’re posting again! woot! I missed you.

    1. Yeah, I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut šŸ˜‰

  3. It IS art. Alot of those fashion designers go for this photo itself. No one can wear a dress made of coke tabs.

    However, this doesnt bother me. My mother has been telling me this about those models since I was very little. She let my Aunt by me Barbie, but she told me that I would never look like that. She told me I was beautiful, when I thought I was and when I thought I wasn’t.

    Self Image: not much of a problem now.

    1. LOL, even the woman in this icon was beautiful once to someone. šŸ™‚

  4. I like your take on it. I’m sorely overdue for a rant on the subject, but the whole “Campaign for Real Beauty” pisses me off. Really, SO WHAT if advertisements are enhanced? Why shouldn’t they be? If I want to see saggy breasts and cellulite I CAN LOOK IN THE MIRROR. The whole message seems to be that everyone is ugly and we should resent pretty people (in the earlier marketing) and now that people are only not ugly because of artificial enhancement. You know what? I’m not challenged by other people’s beauty and I think it says a sad thing about women in general that so many are.

    1. In general, I think that most people calling for a more “natural” appearance don’t realize just how fuzzy the line is between natural and artificial. I mean, just by being born into a western society you are already destined for an “unnaturally” attractive appearance, when compared to the mass of humanity down through history – because malnutrition makes you stunted and ugly.

      And then we put on clothes, and cut our hair, and plug metal rods through various bits of ourselves… and in the future, more and more babies will be born healthier, and therefor better looking… and eventually we’ll start genetically modifying ourselves in earnest…

      “Natural” is whatever form a naturally evolved human intellect freely decides it wants to take.

    2. I don’t think they’re trying to say that it’s bad that ad’s are enhanced but just trying to show how much they are. Also, even though it’s not obvious, the campaign is directed more at young girls who probably don’t realize that ad’s are enhanced. And a lot of it is just a marketing gimmick!

      1. My, my you don’t say! An ad campaign a marketing gimmick?! Sorry, I was oerue for some inflammatory sarcasm.

        The anger I feel is equally directed at mindless consumers who eat into whatever it is that keeps forcing me to look at unattractive, pasty women in giant underwear inexplicably placed in commercials for shampoo. Like I said, I have a mirror already thank you very much.

        It’s the same thing that’s heavily contributed to the whole “American public school” fiasco. When you don’t have standards or expectations and we all just have to be accepting of everyone whoever they are where is the motivation to achieve anything at all?

  5. Hell just froze over..

    ..cuz I’m gonna agree with ….

    It is truly an old art form… Look at most statues in history–they weren’t based on real people–they were all based on the “ideal forms” of what various artists thought people should look like…

    of course.. I don’t think that back then most people really thought that they should look exactly like something carved out of stone… or as thesaj points out–that they would all look exactly like they would in paintings…

    1. Re: Hell just froze over..

      See my response to above. It’s not that idealization of the human form in art is new; it’s that for the first time we’re starting with an accurate image and working away from that, rather than starting with a blank slate.

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