One of the most interesting issues that has cropped up in recent years has been the debate over the ethics of airbrushing and retouching the artwork and photos that appear on the cover of a magazine.
Pictures are meant to tell a story, express a feeling, convey an emotion or capture a moment. Portraits like the one we take each month for the cover of SELF are not supposed to be unedited or a true-to-life snapshot.[...]Did we alter her appearance? Only to make her look her personal best. Did we publish an act of fiction? No.[...]This is art, creativity and collaboration. It's not, as in a news photograph, journalism. It is, however, meant to inspire women to want to be their best. That is the point.[...]
Kelly says she doesn't care what people think of her weight. So we say: That is the role model for the rest of us.[...]
Think about your photographs and what you want them to convey. And go ahead and be confident in every shot, in every moment. Because the truest beauty is the kind that comes from within.
- Danziger first defends the edits on their face by declaring that Self isn't supposed to be "true-to-life." Somewhat hypocritical given the magazine's title, but the most legitimate point in defending this practice for magazines.
- But then she backtracks: We only did it to make her look "her personal best." That's impossible, because there's no way of reproducing a Photoshop job in real life. Her skin will not get unblemished. Her hips will not thin the way you've crafted them. Her teeth will not whiten so evenly. There's nothing personal about it.
- Worse, that reason allows that the magazine assumes responsibility for Clarkson's physical appearance. Last time I checked, she's a public figure -- meaning she (and her publicist) are the ones in control of how she appears in public. That's the cost of being famous. That's your primary job: representing yourself. If she's not at her "personal best" at the time of the shoot, is it really your job as a publisher to pick up the pieces? (And, if you're into back-door dealing, is it really fair for a publicist to withhold their client because she can't manage her own image?)
- By Self allowing image edits on Clarkson's figure under the excuse of Clarkson "looking her personal best," it allows that the magazine is now a part of Clarkson's public relations team. A thin line that all magazines straddle to be sure, but not something I'd readily admit to as an editor.
- Danziger then tries to compare the edits to journalism. No one's criticizing their work based on the accuracy guidelines for war photos from Iraq. To me, Danziger is defending her decision on the basis of an issue that has not been legitimately raised.
- Danziger then admits that Clarkson doesn't care, and uses that as an excuse to alter the photo. Again, hypocritical -- especially in light of the "personal best" reason (so we're kissing up to her!) and the following one, below.
- Danziger finishes with a dashed off, clichéd line about how "true beauty" comes "from within." Besides the fact that the phrase rings empty, it still flies in the face of the effort, time and budget spent to modify Clarkson's photograph.