Curmudgeon Thinks Girls Should Just Shut Up About the Use of Photoshop in Seventeen Magazine

I wrote this post on, that I thought I share for it’s pure insanity:

In May I wrote about 14-year-old Julia Bluhm’s petition asking Seventeen magazine to produce one spread per month without the aid of Photoshop. She gathered a lot of attention and over 84,000 signatures. But Editor in Chief Ann Shoket, gave only a boilerplate response with lukewarm promise to be “more transparent” about their use of Photoshop.

For the thousands of young girls sick of being bombarded with stick-thin, oversexed images of women, Seventeen’s hedging “promise” comes as a disappointment. But to Jim Warren, former Chicago Tribune managing editor and MSNBC political analyst, Seventeen should have just told these young feminists to just deal with it.

In his editorial for the Daily Beast, he points to retouching done on pictures of Abe Lincoln and Mary Todd from the 1860s—using these are “proof” that photos are and always have been essentially lies and that rather than try to change that, we should just teach our children to never trust a photograph.

Seems kind of ridiculous, especially considering that the retouching he points out in Lincoln’s photo mostly involved the height of his collar. The heavy hand used to whittle waists and completely remove clothing in many images in women’s magazines would equate to removing Abe’s beard and replacing it with a handle bar mustache.

Warren suggest that the public didn’t care back in the good old days because the changes were only being made to the rich and famous—as if everyday folks now populate the pages of magazines. The biggest change in the photo of Mary Todd seems to be color restoration, her figure remains intact.

Here are the retouched images of Mary Todd he uses as “proof”:

And here is an image of a model in a Ralph Lauren ad (and again in an Elle magazine photo where she looks more like a person who not in danger of snapping in half)


Warren is hopelessly out of touch—I’m sure Bluhm and her 84,000 supporters would be thrilled if “fly-away hair and exposed bra straps” were the only thing being removed from the photos.

(check out Jezebel’s Photoshop of Horrors tag for more craziness)


4 responses

  1. There’s a huge difference between touching up a dust spot on a negative, back in the days of film or even glass plates, and the electronic reworking of an image.
    One maintains the honesty of the image — the other turns it into fiction.
    I’m of the photojournalism school, where even flopping a negative (to have a person look in the opposite direction) is forbidden. Forget about air-brushing. That’s the school that also insisted the camera never lies (even if it sometimes had its own sense of vision).
    Let’s be honest in what we’re presenting. Or else, in the horror stories you relate, take the action to even further extremes so that what’s presented obviously embraces its abstraction. Stick figures, anyone?
    Thanks for the rant.

    1. kathleenerindavis | Reply

      I agree, but I don’t have a problem with the small touch ups like the stray hairs or bra straps–because I don’t feel like that’s a lie so much as fixing mistakes, at least the person still looks like they do. It’s the crazy changes in bodies that cause issue.

  2. Interesting to read this today. Yesterday I went to the Neue Gallerie and checked out their exhibition on the top floor– it’s of the earliest photographers. Stieglitz and Kuehn and another fellow. What they were doing wasn’t retouching at all. They still were adjusting to the new art of photography and saw everything about it in terms of painting– in that they were trying to make photography be taken as seriously as an art form as painting was. So they imitated painting’s composition, the poses of the painters’ models and even the way they tinted and exposed the photos. Early photographers made pictures hazy because they were trying to make them look like paintings. That editor is way off. Images have always been manipulated, but when one is striving to create beauty that’s one thing. These retouchers are striving to create dissatisfied, insecure consumers who feel they need to buy products in order to attain an impossible and unhealthy level of “so-called” perfection. There’s no aesthetic good or greater good about retouching like this. In fact it’s ugly– like really bad anime. It stinks.

    1. kathleenerindavis | Reply

      Some countries have even passed laws saying that magazines and advertisers have to disclose when they’ve used Photoshop. I think there is a clear line between small retouching that is kind of expected (you can’t go back an re-shoot something just so there’s no distracting object or bra strap or red eye) and what is basically photo illustration (tasteful or not). This Warren bozo says well we should assume all photos are lies, which is crap, because taking an amazing photo is art and creating an image with software can be a sort of an art too, but they aren’t the same thing and an artfully captured photo that’s had the exposure slightly tweaked isn’t the same, and it certainly isn’t a lie. Sorry that was a bit of a ramble. But, yeah those crazy photoshop images are horrible

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: