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Photoshop: can we do without it?

2021/05/27

Who knows what the world would be like without Photoshop and all the photo editing programs.

In a previous article we have already talked about the excessive use of photo editing and the risks involved when images are distorted.

Well, this new article just wants to make an ethical-moral reflection on the excessive use of Photoshop, often exploited for the instrumentalization of the female body. The software par excellence most used for image processing has infinite potential, so try to think of what the world would be without it.

The world of Photoshop has always been an important tool in the history of photography.

From the origins of photography, its pioneers, in addition to having the appropriate skills and equipment to carry out this new art, also had the ambition and the need to make small changes to improve material defects or procedural errors. In just over twenty years, retouching began to play a significant role in making photographs more beautiful and attracting new buyers.

"For a few years these things paid, and well. They satisfied a large middle-class audience, who thought it was the image of a beautiful smooth face that suggested a higher social class."

(L. Moholy, Cento anni di fotografia 1839-1939, Alinari, Firenze, 2008)

Today's ideas don't stray far from then. Even today, physical beauty wins over intellectual beauty or beauty of soul. A beautiful thing excites more, engages and attracts. It strikes the eye and consequently all the senses come alive. It takes no intellectual effort to understand that something is beautiful, so brands and media focus most of their communication on this aspect.

It seems almost paradoxical that since the birth of photography, users have not only used it to capture reality, but also to manipulate it. It's absurd how the need to immortalize a real moment, is contemporary to the need to build an unreal world.

The need to capture a real moment is contemporary to the need to build an unreal world.

Over time, the techniques of photo editing and photomontage have improved: from long archaic procedures we have come to enclose all the functions in a single program that in a few moves allows you to give shape to bricolage of imaginative and ideal worlds.

Overuse of photo editing occurs in the travel industry. Just flip through any travel catalog to see that the skies are always clear, the greens always bright. Even the Tuscany Region, in 2014 fell into temptation, but had to withdraw the advertising campaign for choosing to adopt retouched landscapes of a place that, moreover, would not need aesthetic changes.

The fashion and cosmetics industries, on the other hand, would not live without Photoshop. They are pretty much the ones who set the beauty standards year by year. They choose the right color for clothes, accessories, lips and hair. The products on the market are endless and with them everyone can express their personality freely, yet there's always fashion that says what's more socially accepted and what less.

Some will remember a movie produced by Dove in 2006 (Evolution - Campaign for Real Beauty) that showed, within a minute, the transformation of a woman's face: the natural imperfections disappeared, corrected by makeup and Photoshop. But was all that post-production really necessary? The girl is no longer her, she is a representation even of another person.

Now the brand Dove continues in its battle against unreal beauty with the video "Reserve Selfie"

Photo retouching is performed not only to attribute better physical characteristics, but also to tell and propagate stories, ideas and misconceptions, with the aim of manipulating information.

With the tools we have available today is easy to sweeten the reality. The filters present in many apps allow us to embellish, remove, erase, in essence, modify reality, with the touch of a finger.

It's also true that if we want to manipulate information, we can do so with the touch of a finger.

It is also true that if we are equipped with a critical spirit, we are able to recognize these artifices and give the right weight to what they want to communicate.

"Beauty is Truth, Truth is Beauty: that is all you want to know on earth, and all you need to know."

John Keats

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