the evil airbrush

I recently came across this article, through the morass of information which is peoples’ Facebook feeds, discussing the somewhat rookie error which slipped into vogue, where Kate Moss’s daughter Lilla Grace has had two of her fingers removed by an over enthusiastic airbrusher.

Obviously this is a real balls-up, and the person responsible probably should be out of a job and back to school, but the comment from Italian Vogue editor Franca Sozzani has got me thinking.  Apparently ‘there are there a “very few” photographers who don’t use Photoshop’.   Sozzani then was said to slam glossy magazines for over use of airbrushing.

Ok, so advertising campaigns for wrinkle cream which use airbrushing to enhance the claims of the efficacy of their product are clearly out of order, and hilarious mistakes are the fodder of the internet classes.   But I wonder if we are now (doubtless fueled by the feminists) embarking on a witch hunt.

Fashion photography is not about showing a realist, objective, interpretation of a scene.  It is a staged show, a fantasy.  Are the majority of the people who will buy the outfits seen in a glossy really going to spend their life enacting the scenarios that the shoots depict?  Are they chuff!

Don’t get me wrong, after my slightly sarky comment about feminists previously, I think it is a very real concern this idea that women should be one shape (usually skinny), but at the end of the day no-one wants to see a set of fashion images (male or female I hasten to add) with spots, creases, floppy bits hanging out of shape.  I doubt half the people who blather on about airbrushing would hesitate to slap a bit of concealer over the zit from hell, or pull in their belt on a ‘fat day’. And at the end of the day, fashion photography is marketing. Whilst many of us will happily buy a misshapen carrot, if you want to advertise carrots you would show them in their best light. If you don’t like it then just avoid the fashion industry, as it is not going to change. Sorry.

Sozzani’s comment is meaningless.  I would warrant that the ‘very few’ who don’t use Photoshop don’t use it because they use something else.

The image above was shot during a shoot I did for the Sunniva Brunel band, during one of their practice sessions.  It was created in gimp, an editor similar to Photoshop. note that i say ‘created’, as all photographs are created, rather than just taken.

I was shooting handheld in the dark, so the first stage was to increase the exposure, as I had under exposed to avoid shake, knowing that some grain from this technique would be acceptable in the style of image I was aiming for.  I wanted a moody image, so I have converted to black and white, using the colour mixer, which changes the lightness of the different colours independently (rather than just working on the lightness of the image overall) when it chooses the shade of grey to render.  I then adjusted the lighting, changing the shadows and highlights. Finally I cloned (airbrushed) out a distracting white plug socket (not very expertly, being 18 months ago, so you can probably see where).

Ok, i have not slimmed Sunniva’s waste, nor expanded her breasts, but as you can see, Photoshop (or an alternative piece of software) is an integral part of creating the final image. But is it any less of a valid portrait?  I would say not.

Photoshop is all around us. look at Vol.up.2, a magazine of extremely gorgeous and sexy women, they have not been slimmed perhaps, but I would still imagine that a lot of post production (including some cloning) has gone into these beautiful images.

Or at the extreme, look at the work of artists such as Marco Ribbe; I have linked here to one of his ‘before and after’ pages, where the final image becomes something in the realm of pure fantasy, creating from the initial shot something which could never be seen as such in real life.

I use a clone tool on a daily basis on my images, often just to edit out dust and scratches from shots which were originally to film or muck on my DSLR sensor, but also to enhance the shot, remove poor aspects and so on.  If I didn’t I might as well just photocopy a negative.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *