Perfect pictures, perfect lies

Thoughts of the past • Perfect pictures, perfect lies

• Thoughts of the past •
Beauty shines through in a persons character.

The inner person…

A portrait should capture something special about the person. That special thing comes out in many ways. A different way in everyone. It’s always there. You cannot edit it in. But you can sure edit it out. Perfect lies are created when your edits make a deception of the original picture.

Perfect pictures

I love working with older people. Their characters are full and their faces tell you a lot about that inner person. Through their face they shine out as people who have experience and depth. That complements the story they tell you in words. At a recent shoot I was lucky enough to meet a large number of veterans.

We talked and I made photos of them. It was a lunch held in their honour. Many of them talked about what they did in the war. There was pride in the service they did. They talked less about what happened to them. I sensed a deep sense of melancholy in some of the words I heard. It was clear that these people remembered much more than they told.

Beautiful people are much more than just lovely faces. In our modern culture we shy away from imperfection. Every magazine shouts about the perfect in something. Faces, homes, products and many more things show some aspect of the perfect. Other media are the same.

In the faces of these veterans I saw perfection of a different kind. A completeness that comes with age. It is not the wrinkles or the blemishes. Those are surface things. It is about the roundness of experience, the depth of feeling and an acceptance of the world.

The images I made of these lovely people will not be found in magazines. They were not perfect pictures. These beautiful people showed the many imperfections we all know come with age. The point is, to me, that makes them all the more beautiful and interesting.

Perfect lies

The modern media that sell perfection create a world of perfect lies. The beauty in a person is swapped out for the false beauty made in Photo editor applications. My gentle adventure at the veterans lunch is the opposite of the smooth perfection found in the media today.

I have nothing against skilled editing. Photography today demands precise editing. Perhaps to a greater degree than in the past. To develop a photograph always involved a certain amount of editing. Today, photo editors give us much more editing power than the people using chemical films had. It is this power that allows the creation of perfect lies.

It is a shame that the power of photo editors has taken the art to beyond the true story of the photograph. I use edits in my photography. It is an important way to bring out the best in an image in post processing. However, I draw the line at creating a fiction. For me everyone has a beauty that can be shown in some way or another. You don’t need to create a fiction to bring that out. Perfect lies are told by the creation of a deceptive fiction by editing.

In the video below we can see this fiction emerging with every stroke of the brush. I question the validity of such work. It is not photography. It raises questions about how the media manipulate our view of women in particular. And other aspects of our everyday lives are affected too.

I know there are arguments for and against extreme edits. In some cases they create art. But the perfect lies are there when there is deliberate deception. Once a picture tells a story to deceive with intent, actual damage can be done. Modern media would have young people believe that gaunt is good. So many women hate their own bodies because they do not fit the size zero myth. Those same women have beauty of their own. They have had it all along. It is just taken away from them. It is flushed away by unreasonable expectations and the perfect lies of modern photo editing. That is a very sad thing.

How perfect lies are created

In the video below is an extreme make-over sequence. While it shows great skill, it tells a story that is a clear deception. It is important not blame people for this work. There is no conspiracy. This work is a cultural mindset. It is one we need to be aware of in our own photography. For me it is one I would like us to leave behind.

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If you are interested in some other extreme makeover videos there are plenty. YouTube has pages of them. Here is a sample of perfect lies in the making… PhotoShop extreme makeover videos.

2 responses to “Perfect pictures, perfect lies

  1. Hi Ann,
    Thanks for your comment. Yes, you are right. The concept of the perfect photo extends beyond the human body into all sorts of realms. Of course that is sometimes art – I do not have a problem with that. It is those photos that are deliberately set up to deceive that concern me the most. You are right again… deception is cruel when it applies to the natural world too. I hope that if a few people take more responsibility for their photography we will see more realism in the future.

  2. I know that this is quite common in the fashion industry- all aspects of it. But I think it’s more extensive than we want to admit. You can see the effects of it in the rise of eating disorders, bullying, and teen suicide- each of which has reached astronomical proportions compared to 20 years ago. What’s worse is the critical thinking needed to counteract the messages “perfect” photos send is being developed less and less in our culture. I think your article also points out that not only do models get “made over” but all types of photos are now being “touched up” in post processing. It’s really tempting to improve the colors of a sunset, clone out a wire or change the lighting in a room by adjusting the exposure and contrast. And a little tweak doesn’t bother me. But when I see some of the spectacular shots that win in photo contests sponsored by folks such as National Geographic, I wonder how much has been beefed up in the “dark room” and how much was “au naturale”. Great thought provoking article!