Friday, December 09, 2011

Brush Me Pretty, Please

This is a fun site. It lets you toggle between a picture as it was initially taken and the airbrushed version which probably was used for publication. What percentage of all published photos are airbrushed? Does anyone know?

Perhaps we will know in the future:
Two Dartmouth computer scientists, though, created a program that can test how much a picture has been photoshopped. Their program accurately predicts how much humans think an image has been altered from its original. And for those of us who are still not aware how pervasive airbrushing is — and how drastic the changes can be — they included a nifty and mesmerizing tool that allows you to toggle between the original and final versions of pictures of celebrities and stock photos. It’s pretty shocking how much they all change.
This program has some real potential: imagine if advertisers and magazine photographers had to label every photoshopped image with its score. That would not only curb the excesses of airbrushing, but would show how unrealistic modern advertisements are — people could see just how many changes a typical image undergoes.

I have written about airbrushing before, given that one of its major uses is to make female fashion models and celebrities look slimmer and smoother. That creates, over time, the impression that unachievable perfection is actually not unachievable, but quite common, and that you, poor thing, are the only one with wrinkles or zits or fat or whatever.

The health concerns of airbrushing are mostly about eating disorders. From that point of view this is noteworthy: The Swedish fashion giant, H&M, now uses computer generated standard bodies for its models, with only the heads being interchangeable. And the skin color. That standard body is this:

The body stays constant, diversity is an add-on feature. The company spokesperson stated that the computer-generated body gives them one standard body to show the clothes on. Which is true. But why that particular body?

It is not a common shape, statistically speaking, and that is where the fear of eating disorders rears its ugly head. If a very slim body is presented as the common type in fashion magazines and on clothing websites, how do we tell young girls that other body shapes are, in fact, more common and equally acceptable? That they might be healthier for your particular frame and genetics?

I don't think the perception of what is desirable in women's bodies is just a problem among young girls, say. It's a societal judgment, these days. If you travel on the net as much as I do you will find this to be true. Just read the comments attached to any YouTube song by Adele, say.