Friday, January 17, 2014

Why real life is never good enough for glossy magazines

Jezebel claim to have the unretouched pictures of Annie Leibowitz's shoot with Lena Dunham for American Vogue.

If they're to be believed the powers that be have rearranged Dunham, whose whole thing is she doesn't look like a model, so that she looks, well, like a model.

It's very interesting stuff. Head from one shot added to torso from other shot etc. Flesh excised from anywhere the A.D. doesn't wish flesh to be.

I know this kind of thing goes on. In my experience it generally goes on with the enthusiastic approval of the subject.

That's as maybe. Jezebel is puzzled by all this. It says "men are generally allowed to have pores and wrinkles; women are supposed to be perfect". That's true, I suppose, but I can guarantee you that any men who have made it through to the pages of Vogue have had a similar amount of post-production work done on their images. Photoshopping is like the cast of Friends. Once one character got thinner, the others had to get thinner for fear of appearing fat.

But more than that. If you want to know why art directors and photographers do this kind of thing, let me refer you to that old TV programme where the Comic Strip did the Miner's Strike. You may remember they had Al Pacino playing Arthur Scargill.

Anyway, the most telling scene in that film, one of the most telling scenes in all TV, came when the director and art director stood in the middle of a proposed location, which was a genuine mining town somewhere in South Yorkshire.

They looked sceptically up and down, scanning the video store, the Indian takeaway and Spar grocer. Eventually the art director, clearly dissatisfied, turned away.

As he went he uttered the line which tells you everything you need to know about the image-monger's trade. "It doesn't say 'mining town' to me."


  1. Not just people either. At magazines I've worked on, interior design photoshoots of people's houses have come back from the editor with instructions to remove light switches, TVs etc.

  2. Hard to get worked up about American Vogue retouching or photoshopping images. They are hardly in the business of selling reality.

  3. Reminds me of Jo Brand's story about auditioning for the part of a standup comedian based on her and not getting it. Presumably not Jo Brand enough..