I remember a time when the camera never lied. When our photos were taken, we were stuck with however they turned out ~ closed eyes, acne misfortunes, weird expressions, etc. Picking our pictures up from the developer was always a mix of anticipation and hope that there would be some “good ones” and dread that we’d wind up with a batch of ruined pictures, for whatever reason.
Photo editing software is a great thing…when it’s used for the right reasons. But when the editing makes the subject “too” perfect, that’s something different. It’s no secret that magazine cover models are “airbrushed” to perfection, even if it isn’t necessary (read: already thin made to be thinner). Young girls aspire to be like women on magazine covers, without realizing that even the women who posed for the cover shoot don’t look like that. Their bodies, skin, hair have been “tweaked”.
Imagine my horror when my daughter’s school pictures came back and her skin was “perfect”. All of her freckles had been airbrushed out and her skin looked “unnaturally” flawless. As far as I’m concerned, that’s not her. Sure, I could see if they were editing out a rogue blemish that appeared on picture day, but freckles? She told me that some of her friends had their hair airbrushed to change the color. And what about scars? Are those airbrushed out, too? What message is this sending out to children about their school pictures? That it’s not okay to have freckles because flawless skin is “preferred”? I happen to like my daughter’s freckles. That scars they have are something to feel ashamed of? I have a scar above my left eye from when I had a run-in with a table at age 4. I was almost blinded but escaped with stitches in my eyelid. Granted it’s not really visible, but I wouldn’t like to think that it would be airbrushed out of a photograph because it’s considered a “flaw”. No. It’s not a flaw. It’s been a part of me since I was 4 years old.
Why do photographers feel it’s necessary to airbrush everything? And why should these decisions be based on their judgment? Who are they to decide what shouldn’t show up in a child’s school picture? I want my daughter to be happy with everything about herself, freckles included. Her school pictures lack authenticity. We, as a society, are never going to be able to teach our younger generations to accept their imperfections if there’s a constant need to cover them up in photographs.
While the camera may still “never lie”, we would be better off if we stopped trying to cover up all of its truths at the cost of authenticity.