Keeping It Real

One of the things I feel very strongly about as both a photographer, as well as an observer of photography, is the now commonplace act of digital body manipulation/augmentation.

It is now such a widespread and commonplace practice that virtually every photograph we see has been changed in some way, and the acceptable 'norm' of what we are now used to seeing and digesting as 'natural' has escalated significantly in recent years.

This trend also stretches to the widespread use of skin filter apps used daily in social media. The sad thing to me is that the technology in the apps is often so poor, it is very evident when an app has been used, rendering the subject with a blurry, texture-less face and liquified features. Totally unrealistic, unnecessary, but now evident in the majority of people's personal photos.

Firstly, let me clarify the difference between what I regard as acceptable digital post production and something which is not. I freely discuss with clients that I will retouch their photos both to grade them and to perfect the overall development of the photo in post production, as well as mindfully edit the photo to remove such things as stray hairs, temporary skin blemishes, lint on fabric which I didn't spot and remove during the shoot, etc. Anything outside of that category, I treat as a dedicated conversation with the client about the necessity and nature of the post production, and why (or why not) it is artistically appropriate.

My main discomfort with body manipulation is that it creates a dishonest photo. It also, in my opinion, does not respect and represent the client truthfully - both for themselves, and for any employer who may see them. I have in the past refused to edit in such a way for these reasons.

There is so much dissatisfaction already created with body awareness due to the unrealistic images in the media, online, and in film, that to bend to it and perpetuate it to me feels morally wrong.

I sometimes feel old-fashioned to have this view, and I often find myself explaining my reasoning with clients (and in this blog!), however recently I have met several clients who feel as strongly as I do about post production. However we look, and with what ever "imperfections" (note the quote marks as I mean this facetiously) we have, this is what we are. And these characteristics are special to us. We should own them, and not apologise for them.

I hope in the not so distant future, body manipulation and the prevalence of modifications such as skin filters will start to see their day and fade out. Yes it will put the retouchers out of some work, however it will be a huge step forward for body acceptance and honesty.

Drop me a line if you would like to celebrate your own personal perfection!