Photoshop culture requires touching up

Snap a selfie and you might add a filter before posting it. Hold a magazine shoot, and you’ll need to brighten up the image, or maybe clear up some blemishes. But it rarely ends there. The practice of retouching has become commonplace, despite increasing objections to the unrealistic beauty standards that come with it.

But criticism can cross a line. The feminist website Jezebel has come under fire for paying  $10,000 for unretouched photos of “Girls” star Lena Dunham, from Vogue’s February issue.

Dunham is known for her comfort with revealing her body on screen, and is quite the feminist icon herself. Jezebel posted the leaked photos on its website Friday, calling attention to all of the Photoshopped alterations. The result seemed to shame the actress for allowing Vogue to photoshop her, despite Dunham going on the record as being happy with Vogue.

Photoshop is warranted in moderation, but its magical properties are often taken too far. That is why efforts to emphasize real beauty are worthy of attention. But there is a right way to go about it, and Jezebel missed the mark.

Their underhanded move comes off as more of an abuse of Jezebel’s power than a step forward. Dunham chose to be photographed, and the public rejoiced over Vogue’s decision to deviate from its norm with a different look on cover. Everything was fine until Jezebel crashed the party.

There’s a difference between brightening a photo and trimming six inches off a model’s waist. While there’s no denying that magazines take photoshopping to the extreme – influencing young teens to download photo editing apps and partake in this culture – but neither Vogue nor Dunham went overboard in this case. Their collaboration should be celebrated.

There are good examples of how to promote real beauty and create positive awareness about photo doctoring. American Eagle’s lingerie line Aerie announced Friday that it will only feature un-retouched models in its spring ad campaign, Aerie Real. It’s a bold move, and a beautiful one.

Also this week, a music video by Hungarian music artist Boggie released in December went viral because it reveals her transformation on Photoshop as she sings. The young singer is airbrushed into an entirely different girl, showing how drastic changes can be made with simple editing tools.

Until we can touch up the Photoshop culture entirely, let’s allow encouraging messages to come from the companies or celebrities themselves.


Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.