In the last year or so I've noticed a bunch of press releases trumpeting about "photoshop-free" fashion shoots purporting to be a fabulous fix for all our body image woes.
In shock news, I get grumpy about this. Fundamentally, photoshop-free is NOT the same as diverse - or realistic - but it gets used as code for that.
Many are the sins you can commit with photoshop, but photoshop-free doesn't mean imagery is any less idealised or any closer to what people look like out here in the world.
Here's a bunch of things I see every day that mysteriously never feature in "photoshop-free" shoots. The only body I see every day is mine, so, like, hi, basically. Scuse the wonky phone cam shots :)
1) Body Hair
Speaking as a hirsute woman (I'm also short and grumpy, so I reckon early exposure to Ewoks was possibly a mistake on my parents part), body hair seems to be amazing taboo in every image everywhere, bar a small niche bit of the sex industry. You can find ANYTHING fetishized somewhere, ironically making the home-grown pornography of the UK possibly the only place you can find true body diversity, in a very peculiar way.
By the way, normally we cover this up for shoots using ivory opaque tights (pantyhose) under my stockings. But hey, photoshop-free!
I have a haemophilia-type disorder and generally have a smattering of bruises, though this shot is from Poppy instead. She says "the bruise is courtesy of daily fragmin (lightweight heparin) jabs into my belly. The belly is courtesy of chocolate ;)"
Most of the glamorous cabaret, circus and burlesque performers I know have bruises from practicing, stairs (London venues are strangely homicidal in architecture) and lugging large suitcases on and off night buses, experiences many models also go through. Yet mysteriously bruises never appear in photoshop-free shoots.
It's marginally possible that lighting, make-up and yes, you guessed it - tights! are involved.
3) Wibbly fat bits
I refuse to use the word cellulite because I'm not sure it's even an actual thing. From Wikipedia: "It's existence as a real disorder has been challenged, and the prevailing medical opinion is that it is merely the "normal condition of many women".
But have you noticed how it never appears even in photo-shop free shoots, even with plus-size people? For some reason, people in shoots have lovely smooth skin. Now, do I think that's from the moisturising soap they are advertising, or is it more likely that there are other ways to avoid photographing people who have it, or avoid photographing the places they have it, or cover it up without photoshop?
(maybe it's Maybelline, maybe it's tights. It's probably tights)
I wish I'd got mine from something cool like Roller Derby or Parkour, but boringly they're just from pre-diagnosis, when I had minor procedures that resulted in infections (welcome to what happens when your blood won't clot). Scars, skin disorders and anything more than the odd wrinkle are rarely seen in fashion pictures but are basically universal in real life.
Esther also sent me this picture, as she comes up in allergies and insect bites in every outdoor shoots and yet that also never appears!
5) Dead eyed tiredness, poor lighting, zero make-up and unstyled hair
OK, so that's 4 things, but I didn't think I needed more than the original image to illustrate this. Yes, my modelling forte is looking knackered and taking bad shots.
Dead-eyed fatigue will never be a seller (though "vapid" seems to work just fine). But isn't it slightly ridiculous to spend 4 hours carefully doing "just woken up hair", make-up and lighting, and then get excited because there's no photoshop?
When I was 20 I thought photoshop was The Problem, but the older I get the more cynical I am about the whole thing. Here's a few things I found more useful than looking at un-photoshopped pictures for developing a more sensible body image.
1) learning about ALL the processes that go into those images. And exactly how boring it is. I have zero desire to be a model.
2) learning that even models don't look like models. Actually, some of them look even better in person, whilst others are barely recognisable. The move from 3D to 2D does unexpected things.
3) why would we even value ourselves based primarily on looks?
4) before photography was economically viable, there were illustrations, and they were just as silly. I mean, no-one has boobs this shape. But the thing is, ALL marketing images are just illustrations. The photos aren't any more real than the drawings, paintings or digital art. It's just pretty pictures. For me, knowing that every image you see is fantasy makes a difference. I admire them as art, and file them thus, rather than as what anyone actually looks like.
How about you? What do you never see in photoshop-free shoots that get's your goat? And what do you find helpful?