On beauty, Photoshop, women, men, girls, boys and you!

The above is piss-poor photoshop work anyway. Read below for more information.

Friend, blogger and regular-reader Biodork posted about Photoshopped beauty yesterday based on a post inspired by atheist blogger Lousy Canuck Jason Thibeault. Even PZ Myers posted about perceived beauty recently here.

I read Biodork’s interpretation and then read through Lousy Canuck’s post, and then scanned through the links.

The posts detail how Photoshop is hugely responsible for creating unattainable beauty that influences young women. It gives them a false sense of beauty. Both posts leave out that it influences men as well.

I’m a photographer and work in Photoshop a lot. I’ve given the topic of beauty a lot of thought. I’m biased. I admit that wholly. I’m an advocate of Photoshop as a photography tool.

First, Photoshop is not the enemy. Ignorance is the enemy. Photoshop might be a factor, but it shouldn’t be called out as the enemy of what’s pretty and good.

The fact is that everyone, from gorgeous to normal, can benefit from Photoshop.

What I want to explain is that beauty is everywhere. I see it in the faces of almost everyone I meet. Finding beauty and relaying that is a learned trait. This is something my dad instilled in me. As an artist, it’s my job to make you look and feel beautiful, handsome, badass, cool, etc.

And while other people fail miserably at finding beauty in almost everyone — young, old, black, white, fat, skinny, and all traits this way and that — I find the beauty in people and attempt to convey that to you.

Even the most beautiful people in the world aren’t as gorgeous as you think. Stop any gorgeous, well-made up, cleanly waxed, beautiful bodied woman or man in time at 1/200th of a second, stare at the image, and I can show you 1,000 ugly things about them. But I can also show you 2,000 beautiful things.

Perception is key.

This is a long post and I’m going to put the rest below the fold. I broke up my thoughts and separated them with emboldened text. The last couple/few sentences sum up my thoughts to help you skim a little faster. Either that, or read the whole thing. I realize this isn’t a perfect argument, but it’s an alternative perspective of “Blame Canada Photoshop!”

Photography ≠ Journalism

Photography is not always journalism. There is journalistic photography and non. I like both for different reasons. If you hire me to shoot you, part of what you hire me to do is open your image in Photoshop and retouch your image.

When you are in the presence of an attractive person, you look at them in motion. But when you stop and stare at a photo shot at 1/200th of a second, you get a chance to really look at them. We are covered in blemishes. When you look at yourself dead on in the mirror, you might like what you see or you don’t. But when you start moving around your person, you start seeing what other people see.

When I photoshop women and men, boys and girls, I work on finding what is attractive and enhancing those details. If you or your loved ones are fooled by Photoshop, then consider yourselves suckers.

Here’s the key: Images straight out of camera need work. They almost always do. If you want great photography, it takes a mix of great lighting, great makeup and a professional photographer who understands the toolbox called Photoshop.

Truth is Beauty, Beauty Truth, that’s all you need to know … PSYCH!!!

Romantic poet John Keats ended Ode to a Grecian Urn with the line above (I altered it a little). There’s also a Christian ideology that tells people they are beautiful on the inside, and that’s what god sees and that’s what’s important.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

Bull shit.

“Beauty is truth” and “Judging books by covers” are romantic thoughts. They call it romantic, because as many times as you say it, it’s not the truth.

It’s like Christianity, just because you believe Jesus saved you, doesn’t make it true.

The evil metaphorical Photoshop

If you think Photoshop is the enemy, you have forgotten about evolution. You have forgotten all the ways we cover ourselves and create the “appearance” of beauty. We metaphorically Photoshop evolution from our collective human portrait.

How many things do you do to hide or Photoshop the truth from the way other humans perceive you?

First, you cut your hair. You wash your hair and keep it clean. You bathe the stink from your body. You cover the stink with deodorant and perfumes. If you’re a man, you shave your face. You pluck hair from your skin, nose and ears. Men and women color their grays. You pop pimples. Lots of women, and some men, wear makeup. Lots of people shave lots of hair from their legs, underarms and pubic region. Those are just ways you metaphorically Photoshop your appearance.

Your hygiene is a socially-constructed, self-enhancing tool that you use to create a better, acceptable appearance.

I’m just getting started.

Now you have to clothe yourself. Wear nice clothes, get attention. Good attention. You can’t wear jeans and a t-shirt to an interview. Mask your worth with a suit! You have to work on your speech. You have to make sure you wash your bedsheets, so the musty smell that accumulates on them don’t follow you around all day.

Then you have to behave a certain way. You can’t go in public with an un-retouched mind. You can’t say what you’re thinking like the narrator in Fight Club. You have to rework your thoughts to appeal to the greater good.

If Photoshop is the enemy, be sure to throw in all the laundry list of ways you cover the blemishes brought to you by being an evolved human being.

Perceived Beauty

Blaming Photoshop for ruining perceived beauty is bullocks. Yeah, sure, the images on the covers of magazines are completely unattainable levels of beauty. Then educate your children. Educate yourself on the things professionals do. Look at the pictures of before and after. Bring your kids in public and talk about body types.

We are evolved beings that naturally attract to certain attributes. Opening the mind to perceived beauty is a trained mindset. If a photograph reveals elements of your physical appearance you don’t like, talk about it. Open up.

But for atheists to blame Photoshop for creating a culture of unattainable beauty is myopic at best. It’s ignorant. It’s ignoring the entire picture of the ways we alter other people’s perceptions of ourselves.

The memetics of beauty start with realism. I personally blame the perpetual need dip into a fountain of youth. Why are we a culture who finds beauty in looking like pre-pubescent children? Probably because children need to do very little to appear cute. Through our evolution, we forgive the ugliness of a poopy diaper.

Women and men seek out ways to look like young children, and that has fogged our perception of beauty.

Let’s take a drive in the car called Sex!

The shitty truth is that sex drives our perception of beauty.

I love natural looking nude photography, aka pornography. I’m attracted to lots of body types. But when I get to a shot of a woman bending over and there are five, bright red zits on her ass, my libido takes a nose dive.

As a collective human culture, we are to blame for perceived beauty. Photoshop might contribute, but it’s not the only culprit. We put value on sexual and physical appearance in all aspects of our lives.

Looking at images in magazines is the equivalent of what McDonald’s does to your brain’s chemistry. It pumps an overwhelming amount of stimulus into the brain, causing an imbalance of perceived flavors and tastes. McDonald’s has gone great lengths to manufacture that to get you addicted.

If you allow it, the ignorance of thinking McDonald’s is good will kill you. Education is key to destroying that idea.

Education is key to perceived beauty.

The atheist responsibility

As atheists, we scream non-stop about how Christians view science.

We say, you wouldn’t want a non-professional flying your plane. You wouldn’t want sub-excellent engineering in your automobile while driving 75 MPH with three kids in the backseat. You wouldn’t want an acupuncturist doing surgery on your heart or cancer. We say, why the fuck would a Christian not trust a scientist for answers about science?

We scream about Christianity, but we all know and love many Christians. Christians aren’t the issue, we say. Education is the issue. We say, if you educate yourselves on the history and logistics of Christianity, you likely wouldn’t be a Christian. We say that the precepts of Christianity are manufactured ideas made by humanity about a god that doesn’t exist.

Why would atheists view beauty from the perspective of manufactured beauty and blame Photoshop? Manufactured beauty starts well before Photoshop.

Blame memetics. Blame culture. Blame the very brain that sits in your skull. Blame the fear of death.

Photoshop can help a photo in more ways than you realize.

Blaming Photoshop for altering perceived beauty is like blaming science for the A-bomb and forgetting about transplants, vaccines and advanced healthcare. It’s like blaming all of Islam for 9/11. It’s like blaming Christianity for shitty behavior or saying all atheism blows because people lump Stalin, Pol Pot and even Hitler in the atheist position.

But before your next job interview, date, or social outing, remember to use a little Photoshop on your headshot, take a shower, buy a new outfit and doctor up that resumé.

You can thank me later.

3 thoughts on “On beauty, Photoshop, women, men, girls, boys and you!

  1. Sorry I’m late to the party. This is honestly the first time I’ve had to TL;DR one of your posts! But I came back and did and now I’m all like there’s so much to respond to! So…much…writing!

    Why don’t you live closer so we can argue about this in person over alcohol? Alcohol always make arguments more fun. Everything that I say here, I say with respect.

    Listen, ASSHOLE –

    Just kidding.

    Let me get this bitch out of the way: “The posts detail how Photoshop is hugely responsible for creating unattainable beauty that influences young women. It gives them a false sense of beauty. Both posts leave out that it influences men as well.”

    My post is pretty gender-equal. I include one photo of a female model, and one photo of George Clooney. I use gender-free terms like “model”, “celebrities” and “people”. I don’t say that women are influenced and omit men. But that’s just not a response to your points, I just wanted to defend my write-up.

    I love being able to edit my photos. I usually always end up adjusting for lighting and color, and may crop, zoom or sharpen an image in an attempt to improve the shot in post-production.

    I think Photoshop is a great tool for a photographer, and I certainly don’t think it’s evil. I think it’s used for evil, but not inherently evil (don’t read too much into my use of the word “evil”) That’s to your comparison of blaming photoshop for resulting in unrealistic body image being like blaming science for the resulting A- bomb. Both of these things – photoshop and science – ARE responsible for the results, but that doesn’t meant that either is bad in and of itself. And both are responsible *in part* for the results, but not completely to blame for either.

    Crap…I got out of order. But since I’m down at this end of your post: You’re out of line with the “atheist responsibility” section. You’re equating atheism with science, and implying that no good atheist should do poor science, and if you do do (heh, doo doo) poor science then you’re being a poor atheist. Being an atheist doesn’t make you a scientist, and I know way too many scientists who are way too religious. And if an atheist does bad science it doesn’t mean they should have to turn in their A-card. If a scientist does bad science they may need to turn in their scientist card. But we’re not talking hard science or scientific study of beauty, we’re talking about subjective perception of beauty.

    I think the strength of your post is that you remind us that Photoshop isn’t solely responsible for our instincts and definitions of what is beautiful. Our instincts I’ll blame on genetics, evolution, the drive to shag and spawn little baby humans, whatever the science is supporting.

    Our *definitions* of beauty I will blame on the beauty industry (Big Beauty, if you will). And by controlling how we define beauty (and constantly tweaking that definition), the beauty industry (industries – weight, fashion, skin, makeup, hair, attitude, hygiene, etc.) controls how we spend and how much we spend. And Photoshop is one of the tools that is used to define beauty. It’s not that there aren’t ways to improve our appearances without Photoshop via dieting, weight-lifting, plastic surgery, skin care regiments, makeup, hair dye and more. Of course there are.

    Photoshop takes someone who has attained perfection to the best of their ability, someone who has literally made a career out of being beautiful, and makes their beauty unattainable and unrealistic and depressing as hell to the rest of us. But – and this is where the bad/evil/abuse of Photoshop comes in – it doesn’t just take someONE – it can take *EVERY*one that we see in magazines, commercials and ads and makes them similar. By shaving away all curves, erasing all back fat, smoothing that little flap of fat that forms when most of us sit, drawing from nothing a strong jaw line onto every face, by removing all sight of moles, dimples, wrinkles, freckles, birthmarks and uneven tan lines, Photoshop makes us think “What the hell am I doing wrong? Everyone else has got it together.”

    Should we give a shit about what someone in a magazine looks like and that we don’t – and won’t ever – look like them? No. Do we let it get to us anyway? Yes we do. It doesn’t seem rational, but I think that we do – men and women alike. And that’s when Big Beauty comes in like a knight in shining armour and offers to fix us. We suspect we don’t need fixing, but we might pay a few pennies – or a few hundred dollars – if we could just improve this one thing…

    I only wrote this much because I love ya. K’bye! Call me every five minutes!

    1. I don’t believe I’m going to do this response justice to your very well thought out response.

      I wanted to let you know that I am very appreciative of it, and I want to take better care of responding to it, since you made so many great points.

      I like the “big” beauty line. A lot.

      Thanks for taking the time, and please keep an eye out for my better response soon.


      Asshole, I mean Jeremy

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