Photoshop: Destroying Self-Esteem Since 1990
by Isis Meunier
March 8, 2017 | Voices
“Photoshop has made society believe that it is normal to be flawless and to have perfect proportions, and that’s not true.” – Dr. Sarah Ravin.
The power of Photoshop has helped develop unrealistic representations of the human body, which has created expectations of the desired body type. These expectations are unattainable and unrealistic, creating constant disappointment when they are not attained. Creating constant disappointment in me, knowing others and I face these images on a daily basis. It’s a vicious cycle, since these expectations become ingrained in our subconscious.
The manipulation of the human body affects everyone. From smoothing out already perfect skin of children, gorging masculine muscles, enhancing women’s curves to erasing seniors’ wrinkles. You can’t escape it, because it seems there is always to be perfected in the human body.
Retouching is part of photography. It can help create a certain atmosphere give a desired style. It can help recreate what the eye sees, but not the lens. A camera might not capture the exact color of an object, which might change during when printing. Hence, I entirely understand why some retouch their pictures.
However, it is a problem when it is used to completely alter reality. As technology advances and new techniques emerge, it has even become harmful.
A retoucher who had prevoisly worked mostly for Victoria’s Secret decided adress some of these “secrets” (because of this, her name remains anonymous). Apparently, body alterations start on set: models get shaping pads put on them and even a bra underneath their bathing suit (especially the strapless ones to achieve the anti-gravity breast effect). Photoshop can then remove all these enhancers afterwards. Even with all of this, our retoucher was “often asked to make breasts rounder, higher, perfectly symmetrical, and of course, larger”. Body hair is also completely photoshopped away from the models. The retoucher says that on set “They all have stubbly pubes – all the normal stuff [non-models have].”
Other than these basic techniques, there are more drastic ones used, such as body swapping. Sometimes it is just impossible to have a perfect face, body or perfect pose, so body parts are simply swapped. “Face collage”, another technique used where different facial features are taken and stuck together to create a new face. It’s like a horrible real life game of Frankenstein.
With all this “perfection” surrounding us, I am not surprised the number of eating disorders has increased. It affects the young and follows them through their growth. By high school, one in ten students have eating disorders. The constant need to always look perfect creates countless anxiety and self-esteem issues.
No natural part of the human body is left to be seen, making society continually absorb and get used to these fake images. Even if the majority of people know what they are seeing is fake, when a more natural picture is showcased numerous react negatively towards it. These standards of perfection have become so deeply embedded in that many of us have learned to appreciate them, and it has to stop.