Here’s a twist: A professional Photoshop-using photo editor wants to tell you about our own warped view of beauty.
Photographer Lauren Wade, who admits to digitally nipping and tucking subjects over the past five years, gave famous masterpieces the same edits she gives subjects, and here’s what it looks like.
Wade said, “We’ve taken a digital liquefy brush to the painstakingly layered oils of some of the most celebrated paintings of the female form, nipping and tucking at will.”
It’s heavily trodden ground that even in the dark room, people were morphing images for fashion magazines to be shinier and seemingly flawless. It’s gotten easier and more rampant now. Readers are already aware that pictures in fashion magazines and ad campaigns lie, and the models typically have no say in how many organs they get to keep. Pictures come out looking strange with suspiciously absent organs and skin the texture of Nickelodean Gak.
Quick fixes have spread to regular people too. In South Park a guy falls in love with a girl he once rejected because of her perfect Photoshopped image. Word spreads and all the high school girls use a computer program to manipulate their appearance, to the tune of a Britney Spears “Work Bitch” parody. Roll your eyes, but adults aren’t much better with apps like SkinneePix, which allow you to can have impossibly perfect underarms. “Look I am skinny!” a user said, giving the app five stars like countless other users.
But this photographer points out that even the pictures we admire as “natural” really aren’t.
The “before shot” of Francisco Goya’s, Nude Maya, 1797–1800
Seeing Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus chopped down to a size 2, her cushion from her sides used to plump up her breasts, is so disturbing that it’s cheering. It’s provocative, and that’s the point. The nature of this commentary is that iconic images we’ve burned into our brain are being compromised like models. People wouldn’t want the “imperfections” the masters wanted removed.
And what is the difference between an editorial cover and fine art? Fine art, you could argue, is more sacred. On that, Wade says, “there may be something sacrilegious in that, but the same could be said for our contemporary ideas of beauty.” These women were works of fiction, dreamed up and purposely painted to have hips and to occupy more than an inch of the canvas. They’re confrontational and dominant and beautiful. They’re lounging about, blissfully ignorant that thigh gap would later become a thing, and this photographer is Photoshop-shaming all of us.
There’s Seth Matlins, ad man turned ad watchdog, petitioning for more honest standards for women in advertising. He’s demanding that every stakeholder get in a room and come up with rules to govern what can get changes. What’s hopeful is that now you don’t have to go to a plus-size specific blog to find the sort of womanly figure that celebrates her curves. It’s a remarkable shift, and hopefully we can do better.
Animating these paintings is a non-superficial call to look at the issues we’re all guilty of. Had Wade not been feeling uncomfortable “improving” women for years, this wouldn’t be as strong. The women in these paintings are commonly accepted as the ideal. Everyone knows what the before pictures should look like, and yet they’re not big-breasted enough, or not thin enough by our standards. This is the sort of revelation you get when someone on the camera side of things takes the issue seriously enough to get in front of the camera and speak about it.
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