I beheld the photographer for what he truly was: a wizard
Have you been following the latest celebrity craze? No, I’m not talking about Gwyneth Paltrow’s revelation that she gets bees to sting her as a form of skin treatment, though I could easily discuss that all day. (I’m beginning to think that Gwyneth might be a parody account. She already sells magic dust on her website.) I’m talking about the new trend where mega-rich, super-famous women complain about being airbrushed on magazine covers. In March, we had Lena Dunham claim that a Spanish magazine used ‘ mad Photoshop’ on a picture of her. Part of Kate Winslet’s contract with L’Oréal Singer Lorde is all over Instagram posting her natural appearance versus her airbrushed one. Comedian Amy Schumer is big on the antiairbrushing campaign trail, too. Perhaps most prominently, The Fixer’s Kerry Washington came out railing against a retouched cover, saying, ‘I just felt weary.’ I’m sorry to hear that, Kerry. I understand that it’s important to tell young women that the beauty standards they’re fed are literally unattainable. But forgive me if I can’t restrain the tiniest eye-roll at these celebrities and their passionate desire to be photographed warts ’n’ all.
On the local front, TV and radio personality Lerato Kganyago was on the receiving end of a Photoshop scandal in May. The publication for which she posed released the pre- and post-Photoshop images, but to my eye the pictures appeared pretty similar. One obvious difference, however, was that they had airbrushed out Lerato’s cellulite in the published version. Twitter promptly went nuts. The incident left me, frankly, confused.
Criticising the media for body-shaming is one of my favourite things to do, so part of me was eager to jump on that bandwagon. hand: don’t you dare Photoshop our celebrities too much! On the other hand: don’t you dare show us what they really look like!
I was once tricked by friends into participating in a professional photo shoot: the kind of pyramid scheme that preys upon narcissistic women by offering services for free but then charging you Nkandla rates to buy the actual photos. It was an excruciating experience. The photographer was like a real-life Austin Powers, entreating us to give him ‘more sexy’, ‘more drama’. There is only so much drama I am capable of producing when posing awkwardly with my hands on my hips in some sex pest’s bootleg studio.
When the ordeal was over, he summoned up his airbrush tool and patiently went to work on eradicating our many imperfections. As I watched him go, I stopped seeing him as a creepy paparazzo. The scales fell from my eyes, and I beheld him for what he truly was: a wizard. He made us look amazing. We didn’t look quite like ourselves, true. We looked like the version of yourself you have in your mind when you’ve had a haircut and a few glasses of wine and think you’re much hotter than you actually are. And you know what? I love that version of myself.
I’ve never been able to use the photos for anything (other than smashing them all over Facebook) because they’re not really of me. But if I had the choice, I’d have every snap of me professionally retouched. And if I was appearing on a magazine cover? I’d make Photoshop one of my riders, together with a wind machine and a miniature pig with which to pose.
This is not Rebecca Davis, but perhaps with some retouching it could look like her