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Reality - The Life and Thoughts of Zach

Feb. 28th, 2006

06:51 pm - Reality

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Go here and click on "Portfolio" and then click on "before/after". Select a thumbnail and click on "click to see BEFORE".

This is an amazing demonstration of the kinds of things that the media can do to make celebrities look more beautiful. Many of the pictures involve removing wrinkles, blemishes, blootshot eye, and cellulite but one of them actually removes INCHES from a woman's thigh.

These "beautiful" people look really NORMAL in their before pictures. I mean so normal, with so many of the imperfections that we all have, that they almost seem "ugly"...ugly like the rest of us. Ugly like all of us who aren't in magazines and on TV. Maybe we aren't so ugly after all? I mean obviously I don't think we're all ugly or that TV people are beautiful but I can't deny that I have a base gut negative reaction to some of the before pictures simply because I've never seen glossy pictures of celebrities looking like human beings.

Of course, since this company is selling its retouching services, one has to wonder if they also retouched the BEFORE pictures to make them look worse. I mean when someone says to you "I'm a really good liar, here look at some of my best lies." Can you trust them?

Reality is not what you see in photos.

Thanks to conejita_diabla for the link.

Tags:
Current Mood: shockedshocked

Comments:

From:conejita_diabla
Date:March 1st, 2006 01:02 am (UTC)
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"Of course, since this company is selling its retouching services, one has to wonder if they also retouched the BEFORE pictures to make them look worse. I mean when someone says to you "I'm a really good liar, here look at some of my best lies." Can you trust them?"

Heh...a good point, but these are some fairly big name celebs here. I'm shocked enough that they're allowing the before photos to be posted anywhere; I'd have to assume they'd sue the living shit out of them if they'd made them worse.
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From:zarfmouse
Date:March 1st, 2006 01:07 am (UTC)
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Yah, I wonder how long this site will actually be online.

I should mirror the images before it's too late.
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From:zarfmouse
Date:March 1st, 2006 01:29 am (UTC)
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Part of me wants to think that this is a guerilla campaign by culture jammers. Or maybe some people who work for that company basically acting as covert "whistle blowers" by including that content on the website.

But probably it's actually just this company trying to market themselves.
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From:conejita_diabla
Date:March 1st, 2006 01:44 am (UTC)
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lol...I'd like to think so too. But Ockham's Razor...
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From:zarfmouse
Date:March 1st, 2006 10:46 pm (UTC)
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It's so obvious!
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From:skywind8
Date:March 1st, 2006 01:10 am (UTC)
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I saw this a few days ago, and actually worked on some photo retouch of my own over the weekend that further demonstrates it. Link is to a simple nude of me - not work safe link. Click and hold (and wait a moment for it to load) for the before picture, which was not photoshopped at all except to adjust contrast and brightness.

In one to two hours, I can smooth out skin, remove pimples and freckles and bumps, remove stretch marks on hips and belly, smooth the shading of light so a person looks flatter/thinner, and fix light and shadow around the eyes to "brighten" the appearance. In the days before Photoshop this was done on a large size print with airbrushing - very thin controllable paint. Now it's usually done digitally with far better control. I'm not a pro in the field, and my photoshop work looks primitive compared with the career artists. But it can still bring that look of glamour to a normal well photographed portrait.

Celebrity photo shoots generally start with the benefits of a makeup artist, hair stylist, and excessive amounts of carefully positioned photographic lighting, which eliminates a lot of the simple blemishes to begin with. But the rest - the smooth skin [with no skin pores], the perfectly pink cheeks, the extra smooth arms and extra flat tummies... It's generally photoshop work (or equivalent).

The best photoshop work looks like what we expect to see. Note that I don't say it looks "real." But it looks like what we're used to, because it's been fed to us visually for so many years.

Photography is the art of glamour and fantasy, romance and nostalgia. Marketing - sex in media - takes that a whole world further out.
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From:zarfmouse
Date:March 1st, 2006 01:25 am (UTC)
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That example you made is neat.

The thing that blows my mind is that I expect the kind of lighting and shadow manipulation that you've done in your example. I don't expect the gross manipulation of body shape. There are so many of those examples on that site where they have changed the size of a waist or thigh by INCHES. If celebs consistently have their image manipulated like this, I wonder how they get away with appearing in TV and movies or at live events?

I think this must be an excellent example of the kind of error correction our brain does to our memory and perception. Since the "ugly" features of these people are actually very normal we don't consciously notice their presense or absense unless we see the before/after side by side. See a star in real life and you're mostly thinking "wow, I'm seeing a STAR!" rather than "huh, her arm is an inch thicker than in that photo I saw". And after that moment in your MEMORY your image of the moment gets squished together with other images you've seen. So you'll remember the star as basically the same shape in all the media you've seen them in. Only side by side or with conscious knowledge of digitial manipulation does the observer realize they've been duped.

I wonder how much of this kind of extreme digital manipulation is done to "beautiful" stars in high budget mainstream movies.
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From:skywind8
Date:March 1st, 2006 02:01 am (UTC)
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I think this must be an excellent example of the kind of error correction our brain does to our memory and perception.

Yes, exactly. We do not perceive 2D images the same way as 3D reality - we only think we do. Anyone who has tried to do serious drawing, especially figure drawing, begins to learn how inaccurate our brains are about interpretting visual imagery. Likewise someone who is significantly trained in visual art (photographers, painters, sketch artists, retouch artists) becomes a bit more able to see the real cues. Otherwise we habitually look right past them.

I bet you have some friends who you haven't consciously realized wear glasses, or couldn't recall for sure whether they were wearing them last time you saw them. Our brains filter a lot.

I have no idea how much retouch is possible in film. But my sister might know - she's a theater major and has had some exposure to it. I may ask her next time we talk.
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From:tinyshel
Date:March 1st, 2006 12:20 pm (UTC)
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The thing that blows my mind is that I expect the kind of lighting and shadow manipulation that you've done in your example. I don't expect the gross manipulation of body shape.

This was my exact reaction. I found it absolutely terrifying!
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From:msphys
Date:March 1st, 2006 01:16 am (UTC)
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Curiously, my reaction was more along the lines of "Hey, look at this ugly person trying too hard to be a beautiful person!" I won't even try to explain that right now.

My other reaction was mild amusement that they had to edit things like bones sticking out.
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From:zarfmouse
Date:March 1st, 2006 01:53 am (UTC)
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This is _also_ my reaction. It's all about context.

I hesitate to even use the words beautiful and ugly (hence all the scare quotes) because they have so many different meanings to me. Are we talking about my own judgement? About media norms? About the average person's judgement? About my unexamined expectations or about my reaction after contemplation? About some objective measurement of physical traits? And from any of those perspectives are we talking about physical/sexual attractiveness, about spiritual beauty (how they carry themselves, how alive they seem, how interesting they seem), about abstract aesthetics (how pleasing to the eye (not neccessarily due to sexual attractiveness) the shapes and colors and textures of their image are)?

And yah, the bones sticking out and the darkness around the eyes that looks like hangover, stress, or sleep deprivation were particularly ironic.

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From:msphys
Date:March 1st, 2006 02:11 am (UTC)
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See, that was my reaction; hence the whole thing is in quotes. Later I tried to figure out why my reaction consisted of words like "ugly," "beautiful," "person," and "trying." But it's basically my first reaction when, for example, I'm on the el and I see a woman with really fake-looking blonde hair, makeup that probably isn't very fresh, and clothes that are trendy and "sexy" but rather unflattering for her figure. And I think, look, there's an ordinary person trying to look like she stepped right out of a Cosmo ad and doing a terrible job of it, whereas I look like just another chick (dude?) riding the el, which is exactly what I am, and it didn't cost me any extra effort. And yet even though she clearly isn't any kind of famous celebrity, everyone is still staring at her and I'm still sitting there feeling wildly jealous of the "beautiful" person a few seats down from me and thinking that no one ever has to apologize for calling her "sir" on the el.

I just don't get it. Even in "real life," with "ordinary people," there's a sense that anyone who at least approaches that glossy celebrity ideal embedded in our minds is "more beautiful" than "everyone else," even though I'm using so many "scare quotes" it's getting quite "ridiculous."
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From:zarfmouse
Date:March 1st, 2006 02:21 am (UTC)
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It's so "true"!
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From:skywind8
Date:March 1st, 2006 01:55 am (UTC)
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My other reaction was mild amusement that they had to edit things like bones sticking out.

That was what scared me the most about those pics - models starved so thin their bones were showing, and then photoshopped a bit of added weight onto them so that they wouldn't look so scary-unhealthy.

I have a simple explanation of why that happens though - it's considerably easier in photo retouch to add a little bit of weight than to take it away; and some camera techniques also have a tendency to appear to add weight. Thus, extra skinny models mean saved time which means extra money for the companies. Information for photographers in training says as much.

I still find it scary and awful.
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From:hope_persists
Date:March 1st, 2006 01:18 am (UTC)
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check composite manipulation too. it's wild.
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From:conradina
Date:March 1st, 2006 02:31 am (UTC)

wow

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!! Thanks for this; it's very telling.

They're fond of editing out larynxes... on everyone. Since when are voiceboxes ugly?

Come to think of it, it's funny how *similar* the techniques were that they used on guys, albeit far smaller in magnitude. I went in expecting a modern version of the b&w trick of photographing women/men through red/green filters to hide/highlight blemishes and them look less/more weathered & rugged (respectively), and I was surprised to see a tendancy towards porcelain smoothness on both.
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From:zarfmouse
Date:March 1st, 2006 02:35 am (UTC)

Re: wow

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Wouldn't want anyone to know that John Cusack has aged 16 years since Say Anything.
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From:jrstraus
Date:March 1st, 2006 01:57 pm (UTC)
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That is amazing. Thanks for posting it... it brightened my day just a little bit.
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From:assclouds
Date:March 1st, 2006 09:57 pm (UTC)

Check this out, too

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This one really is an activist / informational site, but it's also very informative.

http://demo.fb.se/e/girlpower/retouch/

Step-by-step retouching, with before and after steps.
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From:tugena13
Date:March 1st, 2006 10:47 pm (UTC)
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whoa, creepy!
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From:treoeng
Date:March 2nd, 2006 06:14 am (UTC)

Liars?

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I don't understand why you're calling them liars, though, unless you consider people wearing makeup, push-up/padded bras, corsets, etc, liars as well. It's just another way of hiding what a person really looks like.

For that matter, it's like wrestling -- of course the images are not an accurate representation of what the model looks like. What reasonable person would believe otherwise?
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From:zarfmouse
Date:March 2nd, 2006 08:06 am (UTC)

Re: Liars?

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I was making an analogy to the liar's paradox (i.e. it can be neither true nor false to say "I am lying"). I was implying that these folks are _like_ liars, not that they _are_, strictly speaking, liars.

And I definitely think that in as much as these folks could be called liars, so could professional wrestlers, politicians, and used car salesmen. Of course we know that it is the nature of these folks' profession for them to affirmatively communicate false implications (e.g. they lie)...but knowing it doesn't make them any less false. It just makes us dumb if we fall for it. Of course, politicians, pro wrestlers, and used car salesmen are also NOT liars in as much as these photoshoppers are NOT liars. I'm well aware that reality is far more nuanced and multilayered than a logic puzzle, hence my use of analogy/metaphor rather than equation.
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