Photo-shopping & Retouching – Where Should Magazines Draw the Line?

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Posted January 23, 2014 by Sarah Jarvis in Building Your Brand
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Last week, Vogue unveiled its February 2014 cover featuring Lena Dunham of Girls and her corresponding photo spread. Dunham has been both celebrated and derided for embracing her curves and flaunting her full-figured form on her television show. However, she received a bounty of praise for her classically quirky first appearance on one of the fashion industry’s leading publications.

Of course, we could only applaud Dunham for her wonderfully eccentric photo shoot and Vogue for appreciating beauty beyond the routinely stick-thin standard spread by the fashion industry before people started asking questions.

 Jezebel, which claims to be “a general interest women’s website, ” in particular offered up $10,000 for Dunham’s un-retouched photos. The site then published before and after GIFs of the photos last Friday – to the dismay of its readers, according to the comments section below the article.

While Jezebel’s intent may have been to point out how fashion magazines like Vogue rely too heavily on photo-shop to propagate an unattainable idea of beauty, the site launched a personal attack on Dunham when it paid thousands of dollars for photos supposedly revealing her flaws. Then, Jezebel drew arrows on Dunham’s body parts – pinpointing specific areas Vogue editors had chosen to retouch.

As several commenters were quick to point out, a majority of the changes editors made to Dunham’s body were minor.  User Msxh puts the situation in perspective when she writes:

Honestly? Let’s imagine that I paid personally for a set of photographs for myself. All the minor alternations done here I’d want done to myself.

User erin_go_bralass adds:

 My first thought was that I’d hope they’d smooth out a few bags and bumps if I was going to splashed across the pages of Vogue.

More often than not, magazines are guilty of an over-reliance on photo-shop. However, news outlets should think twice before going on the offensive – as we saw in this instance, the anti-retouching crusade can easily backfire. Jezebel was accused of attacking Dunham for her body after it was revealed Vogue made relatively small and reasonable edits to her photo spread.

In a comment below, share your ideas on how the public can more effectively police magazines on their photo-shopping practices.


About the Author

Sarah Jarvis

Sarah Jarvis is a recent graduate of University of Wisconsin-Madison with a double major in Journalism focusing on Strategic Communication and Sociology. She currently lives in Los Angeles attending the University of Southern California to earn her masters in Communication Management. She also works at Career Girl Network as a Marketing and Communications Specialist and generates social media content on a weekly basis for Rescue Desk – Virtual Assistant Services, which is based in Madison, Wis. In her free time, Sarah enjoys spending time with family and friends as well as attending concerts and movies.

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