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False images: Kelly Clarkson and Twiggy get modified

Airbrushed Kelly and Live Kelly
Airbrushed Kelly and live Kelly

It’s been a busy couple of weeks in the world of airbrushed images.

Kelly Clarkson’s obviously tweaked and airbrushed body on the August cover of Self sparked controversy and even provoked Self editor Lucy Danziger to speak openly about the magazine’s airbushing techniques. Danziger, who admitted to digitally shaving off her own unwanted weight in pictures from her first marathon, defended the practice, saying the Self staff altered Clarkson’s photos “to make her look her personal best” while also calling the photo the “truest we ever put on a newsstand.”

In other airbrushing news, some British politicians are fighting to ban digitally airbrushed images altogether after a recent ad of supermodel Twiggy, complete with flawless, wrinkleless skin, was compared to recent “everyday” photos of the aged supermodel. The politicians in support of the ban realize young girls are under pressure to live up to unattainable images they see on billboards and magazines.

Twiggy and her ultra-airbrushed image
Twiggy, next to her ultra-modified image

Perhaps it’s unrealistic to think a magazine editor who alters images of the momentous occasions in her own life won’t tweak the flaws in others. Maybe it’s unrealistic to think an entire nation can ban airbrushed images. But I’m just glad these media practices are getting press.

The more we know about digitally slimmed-down hips, flawless skin, and computerized toned bodies, the more we can resist their influence. Knowledge is power, so spread the news, whether it’s about that magazine cover in the grocery store check-out line or that billboard looming over Times Square—remind people that airbrushing probably contributed to that image.

Do you think airbrushed images can be limited? What would our world be like if magazines like Self couldn’t touch a photo after it was taken? What do you think about Kelly Clarkson’s cover shot, and how do you resist being influenced by unrealistic, Photoshopped images?


7 thoughts on “False images: Kelly Clarkson and Twiggy get modified

  1. I’m not sure banning alterations will work. Its being aware that these images AREN’T genuine that is the strongest defence against them – publicising the practice & showing before-&-after examples gets the message across that even models are not flawless, it lets people see how much work is done on these images. Enabling people to view these images not as fact but as fantasy would be just as effective as a ban could be, at least in my opinion.

  2. I agree to an extent–but I think that in order to really defend against these images, they would have to be criticized in the same magazines that they appear in. And magazines are not about to start criticizing their advertisers–otherwise they wouldn’t have any.

    A lot of women’s/fashion magazines might include some issues on having a positive body image, but I doubt that any have ever really examined or exposed the Photoshop practices that their own advertisers use. Maybe if they stopped editing their own images in this way, especially on their covers, that would be a good enough start. But magazines and advertisers are all trying to sell us things. I really think that things will change if we just stop purchasing them and stop buying into their marketing tactics.

    Print media is very vulnerable right now, and women’s magazines have so much competition. I think a change like including more realistic images of women would be very positive, and set a magazine apart from the competition, in a good way.

  3. There is a perception that adults can use reason to counter both conscious and subconscious influences like feelings of inadequacy caused by perfect, airbrushed pictures, anxiety caused by scary items on news programs, nasty song lyrics, etc., I have my doubts. Seeing a couple pictures or the dove short showing how models are airbrushed is important. It sets our mind to know what is and is not real, in a rational manner. However, I don’t think it can really compete against the constant bombardment of images, and how they influence us subconsciously.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I firmly believe adults are affected by “bad influences” almost as much as children, because not everything that influences us is processed through our rational mind. Reason is much less powerful than we’d like it to be. All IMHO, but I’d bet money on it. We can SAY that we understand that plane crashes are statistically improbable, but how many of us are comfortable flying after a horrific accident? Perhaps we are affected by these influences in a similar, irrational but real manner we don’t even realise.

    While I really don’t like airbrushing and would prefer that it didn’t exist, Kelly Clarkson is not ugly. It is easier to show a difference between your 2 shots when the model picture has good lighting and smiles, and the second shows a grumpy woman in bad lighting. This is the kind of tactic that “before and after” diet and such ads use. It would be nice if you could show how Kelly was airbrushed without the really unflattering picture. How about “yes, she is pretty, but doesn’t look like on the picture” rather than “she is ugly and made to look pretty”. They both empower women, but the former doesn’t have to put anyone down to do it.

  4. I agree with Tracy’s points about these images affect on the subconscious mind, and I think that that is important to remember. A lot of people argue that we know that these images are edited, but what we know and what we feel are two very different things.

    And in response to the last paragraph, I don’ think that Kelly Clarkson is ugly and I don’t think that she looks ugly in the picture on the right, where she is performing and is actually in pretty good lighting. She is making a face, but I think that the reason that that photo was chosen to compare is because she is in a similar position in the two pictures, not to show that Self Photoshopped her face a lot or suggest the idea that she is always making strange facial expressions.

    Plus, the point of interest is that Self had noticeably Photoshopped Kelly’s body to be smaller–no one was complaining that her face was changed too much.

    I see what you’re saying though. If Twiggy’s comparison photo had showed her making a funny face, that wouldn’t really be fair, because it is her face that we are comparing in the photos, not her body.

  5. I don’t ever think the answer to anything is government being given more control to ban or allow anything. Rather, we, the consumers, have the power to change things by simply refusing to purchase products whose companies use damaging techniques (air-brushing, too-skinny models) to pedal their stuff. Think about the Dove campaign to use “real” women for advertising–hugely positive response. If we (and I mean by the millions) send companies letters that respectfully but firmly inform them that we will no longer shop their stuff until we see some reflections of ourselves in their ads, and then STICK TO IT, they will have no choice but to fold or comply. The huge bloodbath of magazine companies closing right and left is evidence that we DO have the power to keep them in business . . . or not.

  6. I know I’m a bit late but just to follow on Tracy and Sabrina’s comments about Kelly Clarkson, I agree that they should have chosen a picture where she wasn’t making a face. Which I’m sure would not have been hard to locate, considering that a quick Google search shows a picture of Kelly at the concert, in almost exactly the same stance but without a face. So I agree with Tracy that they didn’t have to put anyone down to demonstrate their point effectively.

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