I want to share a photograph with you all:
This one popped up on my Tumblr last week, and someone else posted a link to it via Twitter as well. I have been able to find that the model’s name is Natasha Poly and the image is from a shoot by Mario Sorrenti for Vogue Paris.
I want to point out a few things about this photograph, from a high fashion magazine. Because I believe that the woman in this photograph looks like a concentration camp victim with a fake tan. Now before you get all angry about that statement, read the rest of this blog post.
I would never presume to comment on another woman’s body, or suggest that a thin woman is unhealthy or ugly or anything else derogatory. But I am going to say it about this photograph, because what we’re looking at is NOT Natasha Poly in her natural state. It is not the woman we are looking at, but a fashion magazine’s representation of her. We’re not looking at a real woman any more in this case.
I want you to look carefully at the photograph. I’ll point out a few things for you.
Let’s start with the rib cage area. Can you see the the highlights in the fake tan to define each and every rib? Look down her right arm. See the white highlight again, to make her arm look thin? You will also see them on her left shoulder, collarbone and cheek bone. And the really worrying bit? That wee fair spot right on her right hip bone.
It also has darker patches of tan in key places. Under the cheek bone, between the V’s of her ribcage, on the inside of her thigh, inside of her arms and a streak down the outside of her left leg.
All of this is to make the model, who I am sure is beautiful on her own, look even thinner and taller than she actually is.
Now look at some of the angles of her body. The angle where her right hip meets her leg. Or her waist on her left, down to the bikini string. Take a look at her right shoulder, lifted to her chin. Now at her right armpit around her inner arm and to her breast. Look carefully at her left collarbone. And finally, have a look at the length of her right lower leg.
Can you see the evidence of photoshopping there? How the parts of her body are out of proportion or at angles that don’t fit with other angles of her body.
And of course, there’s the lighting (both real and photoshopped) that highlights the bones in her body to almost skeletal detail.
Models are beautiful women and they’re the rare examples of human beings that are tall, slim and even featured. They’re gorgeous, and that’s why they’re models. But what is happening more and more overtly is the twisting of the features of women in photographs, due to make-up, lighting, tanning products and poses and due to post production work with Photoshop and the like. Real women are being turned into these ideals that are wholly unreal, and as far as I’m concerned, freak shows.
This is why I believe we have to use the term “real women” – because what we’re being presented is not in any way real at all.
It’s horrifying that even the tall, slender, beautiful models aren’t good enough any more. They have to be painted and manipulated into taller, thinner, more unobtainable standards that no human can emulate without doing some serious damage to themselves.
What’s next for fashion magazines? Avatar style CGI work that in no way resembles a human being?
I believe we need to stop worrying about offending each other with talking about bodies in the media and whether they are too thin or too fat, and focus on the work that is being done to images of real women, regardless of their shape and size, that takes them from photographs of real women, to caricatures of women. Because we women are not characters, we’re people, and we shouldn’t be sold what I think of as “lies of beauty”. This is not beauty. Beauty is human and flawed and varied. It’s not a set of treatments in a photo editing programme.
This is being held up to young women as the beauty ideal. Looking at images that have been “doctored” like this and expecting their own bodies to look like this if they just stick to that diet, just do some exercise is making women and girls both physically and emotionally sick. This is one of the reasons why in western culture, girls with perfectly healthy bodies think that they are fat, and why so many boys and men have an unrealistic ideal of the female body.
We are being presented a fake version of womanhood with photos like the above.
Instead of bickering over what constitutes a real woman or not, let’s just draw the line in the sand – real is how any given woman is in the flesh so to speak, even those who have had cosmetic surgery (which I personally don’t believe in, but those who’ve had it are still real women, we didn’t make them up in our heads) or are transgender, and anything doctored, altered, adjusted, photoshopped, edited or airbrushed away from that is unreal/fake/false.
In the case of this example I’m sharing with you, Natasha Poly is a real woman – that image above is not.
I want to see real women in fashion, beauty, entertainment, marketing and the media. Women that should I meet them face to face, what I see is what was on the page and/or screen, not the unedited version of something that they are not and that nobody could possibly be.