The Ethics of Photographic Manipulation.

Ethics are a set of rules that we invent that define what we think is good and bad.

Very few images now reach public domain without some form of  manipulation. Throughout history, images have been altered and constructed to improve aesthetics, change meaning or fuel propaganda.

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An iconic lithograph from 1860, President Abraham Lincoln’s head was composited onto the body of politician John Calhoun.

In 1994 this image of OJ ‘Juice’ Simpson was darkened to appear ‘more dramatic‘ and menacing during his trial for the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Goldman. The ‘race card’ became a main focal point of the trial.

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“Critics of digital photo manipulation have used medical evidence, widespread social standards, and professional codes of ethics to substantiate their claims that digitally tampering with photographs in pursuit of beauty can be psychologically harmful to consumers narrows the scope of socially acceptable “beauty,” and is unethical on a professional level.”  ETHICAL INQUIRY: AUGUST 2012

A study performed by the  National Center for Biotechnology Information found that “exposure to thin-ideal media images may contribute to the development of eating disorders by causing body dissatisfaction, negative moods,” and  “low self-esteem.”

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In 2004 Unilever Corporation launched the Real Beauty Campaign  “featuring real women whose appearances are outside the stereotypical norms of beauty.” though many argued that various body types were used, some manipulation occurred beginning with makeup and lighting to hide other imperfections, including blemishes and stretch marks.

“With digital processing, there is almost no limit to what can be done to an image, and many things are done to images with the best intentions. The question is, when does the pursuit of aesthetics violate our ethics?” The Ethics of Digital Manipulation

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Brittney Spears retouched for a new album release.

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Scarlett Johansson given a full face of makeup and lighting after an already impressive beauty shot.
The image below of Taylor Swift by Annie Leibovitz was created to remake Disney fantasy with huge amounts of manipulation, the difference here is that the unreachable fairy tale is the point of the picture and manipulation.

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Not restricted to women alone, images of men are also fine tuned but rather than thinned out, they are painted to look stronger, more masculine. Justin Beiber was altered to look more muscular and more endowed.

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Other critics and eating disorder specialists comment there is little proof linking photoshop to disorders based on a person’s looks. Carrie Arnold, psychologist and specialist in eating disorders states ““We don’t think ads for disinfectant somehow promote OCD. We also don’t think that those Bluetooth headsets promote schizophrenia because it looks like you’re talking to yourself.” She ends with the conclusion “Our ideas of what “normal” and “healthy” look like are distorted and it is harmful. On that subject, the research is clear.”
Elizebeth Pearle writing for The Huffington Post recognises that “it’s time to start acknowledging that the conversation is much more complex than that.” She insists ‘it too little too late’ and looking back through the lengthy histories of how women have been portrayed for centuries, our constant aim to look younger or change features with makeup. Corseted dresses for a slimmer waist, rouge for cheeks and lips. Can lowering the amounts of photoshop used within media really compete with centuries of sexist expectations, and should it be blamed solely for pressures on young people.

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Circle lens contacts to make eyes appear larger and more ‘doll’ like Japanese anime.

When offering images to be viewed, we must be aware of the perception – whether desired or undesired – that our images may convey to others, especially when aimed at a specific gender or bias.

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An image taken during the first photo shoot for our sexism posters. Though attractive without any alterations, much can/would be done for a magazine or editorial piece.

DSC_7170Any blemishes or imperfections of the skin are removed then the skin is softened to appear flawless and velvety in texture. The arm has been reshaped to appear thinner at the top and the jawline has bee thinned to make the neck appear longer. Then adding shadow and highlight can accentuate certain parts – though I refrained from thinning the waist, changing the depth of shadows behind and on the corset gives the effect. Highlighting the bosom while deepening shadows makes them appear fuller. Lightening the skin tone to finish the English Rose flawless complexion, a highlight in the hair helps it appear more glossy and full and the allure is complete.

I could go much further, eye and lip colour can be changed, both can be altered to appear larger, fuller, seductive, innocent. Does this amount of editing have a detrimental effect to any looking at it? In advertising, every image is propaganda to encourage a lifestyle for the viewer to attain to, and this is also true of young girls looking upon their idols as symbols of perfection.

 

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