Thursday, May 8, 2014

Airbrushing over History

Photoshop has gotten a bad reputation recently, the program has been blamed for the post production manipulation of the female body. I'm not discounting the men here but the majority of protest comes from women that feel they are represented as plastic, photoshopped and ultimately unrealistic. All too often the same people that cite photoshop as the reason for the manipulation of the female form, praise the past as a time when women were "real"

To start, the term "real woman" is getting old, every woman is a real woman the last time I checked. Secondly, Photoshop debuted in 1990, airbrushing photos and manipulating the image of a person was practiced years before that. 

The dictator Stalin would airbrush enemies out of his photographs, so photo manipulation is nothing new and it definitely is used for something other than photographs of models. For this post though I'll just be focusing on the manipulation of the images of iconic stars of the past. 

Every single time people comment on photos of movie stars from the golden age of Hollywood there are always a group of people that wax nostalgic for the days when women could be "real" (they constantly use that word). I get frustrated with these people, if only they did a little bit of research, than they would know those women weren't born like that.

These glamour shots are generally what one thinks about when they hear "old Hollywood glamour" Both of the photos were taken by George Hurrell. He was under contract to MGM and then to Warner Brothers and his photos of stars, like the ones shown here of Veronica Lake (top) and Jean Harlow (bottom) have become synonymous with old Hollywood. 

Dramatic lighting with strong shadows can do a lot to hide any imperfections and chisel the face but there was still retouching, *gasp* even without photoshop. 

This is Joan Crawford and the photo was taken by George Hurrell and it's obviously been retouched.

From the 1920s until the 1960s Hollywood stars were subjected to the studio system. The stars were the property of the studio, if you were under contract to MGM that studio had to loan you out in order to work on a picture for another studio.

The MGM glamour factory is notorious for changing the appearance of their stars before they were presented before the public. The female stars were told to diet, fix their teeth, get plastic surgery, dye their hair, change their name and denounce their heritage.

Unlike today, these things weren't talked about much. Retouching and image manipulation were still as big as they are today but they weren't talked about as much. I'm not for or against retouching but I think there should be awareness that it is not just a recent problem. It's been around since the dawn of photography and it's not going anywhere. 

1 comment:

  1. I would have liked to read *how* they did the photo manipulation and airbrushing back then.