Yesterday, I published a post about the storm around some unretouched photos of Jennifer Aniston from a Harpers Bazaar cover shoot. The quick version is that US website Jezebel published a shot they’d received from someone claiming it was an original out-take from the shoot, before the massive digital alteration took place. Soon after posting the shot and writing about it, in a post entertainingly called “How Your Jennifer Aniston Sausage Gets Made”, they received legal letters threatening them with action if they didn’t take it down.
The letter came from the photographer’s agent and sited ‘copyright infringement’. Jezebel objected and another letter came, claiming the shot had also been “doctored from the quality of files from our server from the shoot.”
Jezebel are calling bullshit on this claim, insisting that the agents (who need to carry favour with Jennifer) are freaking out because the photo is genuine.
When I first published the post (guested by Vanessa Raphaelly), it was based on my understanding the ‘before’ shot was real. I prepared the post late at night and I’m not entirely on my game this week because when I took another look at it after pressing ‘publish’ yesterday, I realised the shot was a fake (to her credit, so did Vanessa, I just hadn’t read that bit closely enough). So I took down the post since it was all a bit confusing and was making me uncomfortable.
The shot that appeared on the cover of Harpers Bazaar – just like EVERY photo you see of any female celebrity on a magazine cover or movie poster – was HEAVILY digitally altered. I know it was. I have an experienced eye.
I also know someone who has seen all the other shots from that shoot that weren’t re-touched, when they were in the process of deciding whether to buy one of them to use for something else. I asked her what they were like and she said: “She looked normal – gorgeous but she had lines and freckles and her skin tone wasn’t even. You know, normal.”
So. What are we to take away from this and why am I publishing this post at all? Well, there were lots of you who did notice that I took the post down yesterday and were confused and fair enough so I wanted to explain what happened. I also want to explain that while I do believe the shot Jezebel published WAS digitally altered to make it look bad, I don’t think it’s the original, un-touched before from that cover shoot.
Clearly though, the ‘after’ shot on the cover is DRAMATICALLY digitally altered. Just like every other bloody cover of every other celebrity.
Make no mistake, this is not about Jennifer or about any one magazine. It’s a story about how sick and twisted the system has become. And how it is doing untold, ongoing damage to women and girls.
In a follow up, defending its publication of the shots (and others) Jezebel had this to say, which I couldn’t have said better myself:
From Jessica Coen at Jezebel:
Just to make sure we’re all on the same page here: We’re not picking a fight when we show images that have been crazily Photoshopped, or when we show you before-and-after shots of celebrities. We’re not pulling some tabloidian “see celebrities without makeup!” or “look who has cellulite!” shtick. This is about the fucked-up imagery that is consistently and persistently gracing newsstands as the beauty standard to which we should all aspire.
For those of you who have seen, time and time again, these manipulated images — be it a retouched wrinkle or a dramatically trimmed waistline — and are aware of the reality behind them, you’re maybe able to look at ads and mags and keep your head straight. Not necessarily, but that’s the hope.
But remember that every day, a young woman somewhere sees one of these overly polished pictures for the first time…and has no idea that they’re not real. She may very well have no idea that most waists don’t really bend without a roll of flesh, that a 40-year-old woman actually does have some wrinkles, that no mascara will make one’s lashes magically long enough to tickle her eyebrows. What the girl does know is that the pictures show What Is Beautiful. She thinks they are reality. And maybe she doesn’t have someone in her life to point out that this is complete and utter bullshit. So we’ll do that, and we’ll do it over and over again just to make sure that everyone knows what’s up.
And as long as we’re on the topic of bullshit: the degree to which the female-targeted media industrial complex wants to keep these images away from you is shameful.
They will fight to keep you from seeing a naturally gorgeous woman before she’s been properly Photoshopped. Her gorgeousness is not enough; she must be superhumanly gorgeous. And there are whole legal teams who make their living making sure you have no choice but to to look at a lie.
Lord knows that I’m not perfect, that there are days when I simply do not like what I see in the mirror. And there are reasons for that that are deeply personal and reasons that are rooted in a youth spent immersed in these images. On those bad days, it’s not easy to give myself a reality check, but I know it’s all wrong, that it doesn’t have to be this way. And if we don’t make a fuss, if we don’t scream and shout and pull out our hair every time we find more proof that we are being cruelly had — that’s just another day that nothing changes. That’s just another day that some young woman is force-fed a lie.
And that, too, is bullshit.