10 Aug Photoshop- Angel or Demon?
How do you feel about Photoshop?
Recently my favourite big company DOVE played a prank on retouchers and photographers- creating a one-click Photoshop action that said it would give photos “a beautiful healthy glow” and in reality undid all retouching. The video they produced outting themselves ends with the line “Real Beauty is unretouched.”
Hmmm. Is it?
I guess that depends on where you stand on the issue of capture vs. create, art vs. documentation. My most-loved author as a teen and young adult was Charles DeLint, who created rich tapestries of urban fantasy that still influence my work to this day. In one of his books, Memory and Dream, an artist tries to teach his apprentice to draw or paint not merely what someone looks like, but rather a piece that told more about them than a perfect reproduction of line and form could do.
A lofty goal, no? But it’s always in the back of my mind. My photographs aren’t just “capturing a moment in time” as the clichéd saying goes, though of course that’s part of it. I want to do more than that. I want to dream with my clients, to peel back the layers and find what’s underneath. Maybe it’s peeling back the layers of motherhood to reveal the sexy young woman who got lost in the shuffle. Maybe it’s going out into the woods to find something fey and mysterious that got lost in the shift to responsible adulthood. Or maybe it’s to dream of parts of ourselves not yet fully realised- the artist or the muse, the glamour not-quite-claimed yet in everyday life.
Can I create gorgeous portraits without using Photoshop? Absolutely. Do I condemn the media for its unrealistic standards of beauty, especially with regards to weight and body shape? Definitely. Is Photoshop one of the tools employed by fashion magazines and ad companies in that reign or terror? Without a doubt. But that doesn’t make the tool bad.
Frankly, I see no need to immortalize this week’s pimple or the fact that my seven-year-old had nightmares all week and I have bags under my eyes that could amply house Imelda Marcos’ wardrobe for the summer. But beyond that, Photoshop is a tool of dreamers and artists. It’s not about taking off 20 years or 40 pounds. It’s about choosing what palette to paint the world with or what emotions to invoke, in subtle shifts of colour and focus that go beyond what has been created in camera.
So Dove, I love ya, but don’t take away my Photoshop. Let me dream.