Is This Beauty?

What is the definition of “beauty” to you? Is it the natural looking girl or the one caked in makeup? Is it the guy with an average build or the one with bulging muscles covering his entire body? Maybe some sort of combination? Well, no matter what your preference is it can all be achieved through digital manipulation.

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So is this a scary or comforting realization? There are many views from both sides of this digital debate on such a touchy topic. Digital manipulation is obviously a way of retouching a photograph using Photoshop or other softwares to change its appearance. If you can photograph it, you can manipulate it. Anything from models to landscapes can be changed with a few clicks of a mouse. When it comes to photo manipulation, it seems like the altering of models affects our lives more often than landscapes. These altercations can cause viewers, particularly females, to develop a low self-esteem and negative self images. Young women can see the images of skinny, flawless women in magazine pages and wonder to themselves why they don’t look that way too.  Some people have taken photo manipulation too far and created extremely negative views towards it. For example, in late August, a new online harassment campaign called “Project Harpoon” popped up on social media displaying manipulated images of plus size women to make them appear thinner.

Despite its negative views, digital manipulation does have its positives as well. Photography is essentially an art form, so why wouldn’t we take the steps to make our art more attractive? Photoshop is an amazing piece of software that, with the required skills and knowledge, the user can create some truly beautiful digital images. Anyone could take a simple image of an everyday landscape and turn it into a futuristic space scene if they really wanted to. Photoshop is also extremely helpful for covering up little mistakes that you may not have caught when taking the original photo. It is also helpful for color correcting photos to make them more visibly attractive to the viewer.

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So where does that leave us? Try as we might, we cannot escape digital manipulation and the role they have in our daily lives. In almost every place we look digital manipulation is present in some shape or form. From the social media we stare at everyday to the magazines we absent-mindedly flip through, digital manipulation is there. You can either embrace this fact or reject it. However, some people and companies are very active in rejecting digital manipulation and what it conveys to its viewers. Companies such as American Eagle and its sister store Aerie have started featuring “unretouched” models in their advertisements. The reason behind this idea is simple, they want to create a sense of body confidence for their audience of young women. Another company that is trying to do right by its female consumers is Dove. Recently, Dove has launched a new beauty campaign called The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. In 2011, Dove released a study of women’s relationship to beauty and they found some shocking results that are continuing to drive the meaning of their campaign. Many celebrities are becoming advocates against the effects of digital manipulation. Like major companies, many celebrities are wanting to be real with their fans and connect with them in that way.

However you stand on the issue of digital manipulation, it is definitely here to stay. While we should have discretion in using manipulation, it can still have some beautiful outcomes. Beauty has a different definition to every person on this planet, so, does yours include digital manipulation or not?

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