It may be no great surprise that the celebrities and models in ads aren’t quite as perfect as their photos. But it is surprising how very different they are in real life. The ads are meant to sell products. But what does the model really look like? Is it all a lie? Has the photo been simply altered by the computer program of Photoshop to make her look better. How do we know the effects of the product? What about “truth in advertising.”
Recent Madonna photos have been altered to remove signs of aging in the 50 year old entertainer.
Photoshopped images are most often used to sell products. The implication is that the product created the perfection we see in the photo. Ethical issues are beginning to be raised. Procter & Gamble agreed to pull an ad for CoverGirl mascara because it used “enhanced post-production” and “photoshopping” to make eyelashes look thicker than they were in real life.
In Great Britain, the French company L’Oreal could not display the advertising of one its products because the Standards Authority Advertising in the UK found that the skin of the English actress Rachel Weisz appears in the picture too smooth to be real. “It has been made such a post-production work on Weisz’s face that it looks smoother than a real one. It exaggerates the effects of the product” said a spokesman for the agency that regulates the content of the advertisements.
In 2008 L’Oreal was also accused of digitally lightening Beyonce’s skin in a Feria hair color ad.The New York Post called it “shocking.” There were countless blog posts complaining about Beyonce for not representing her African-American ethnicity. Recently more controversy was ignited over her new album photo showing her with very light skin.
L’Oréal has also been forced to pull ad campaigns in Great Britain featuring Pretty Woman star Julia Roberts and supermodel Christy Turlington,. after their advertising watchdog ruled the images were overly airbrushed.
Four years ago Jamie Lee Curtis took a stand for reality. She gave a More Magazine interview alled “True Thighs” – a take-off of the title of Curtis’s 1994 movie True Lies. In it Curtis admitted her flaws and revealed her actual body. Wearing unflattering spandex underwear and no makeup, Curtis looked straight into the camera, a big smile on her face, her midriff pooching slightly. Tired of the hype, she said, she wanted to reveal herself, thighs and all. She wanted to tell women “I’m sorry I made you feel less than. Because I am just like you.”
So far almost all the action on the issue of falsifying images has come from Europe where government standards committees on advertising are starting to go after excessive photoshop alterations.
The issue in the U.S. may be aided by two Dartmouth scientists. They have created a software tool that measures objectively just how much a photo has been altered. According to The New York Times, it takes original images and the fantasy resulting from retouching and “statistically measures how much the image of a person’s face and body has been altered.” The Times says those statistics are based on the way people interpret the change from raw image to magazine photo.
These human rankings will help to set an important metic for making judgments now that overly-Photoshopped photos have been getting so much attention. In Britain, France and Norway, legislators are campaigning to make it necessary to label altered photos that appear in magazines and advertising, so that people viewing them know they’re not looking at something that isn’t real.
The first sign is an ad placed by the French Company Sephora for HD High Definition makeup. Its running in U.S. magazines with the statement proximately displayed “ REAL LIFE IS UNTOUCHED JUST LIKE THIS AD.” In small type “this model has not been retouched. Certified by a notary public.”
The model is apparently naturally flawless – except for one tiny pale mole on her cheek.
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