The purpose of this exercise derived from my own research and became a classroom activity for Personal Development Planning. The aim and objective of the activity was inspired by my first case study which looked at how the journalist Ester Honig (who works in the broadcasting and printing mediums, took it upon herself to document her life. In an interesting and social image conscious experiment, Ester set out to have a portrait photograph taken of herself in order to question if there were any social, cultural constructs of beauty and showing this through giving a societal representation of the media in which she worked by allowing them to alter her image. Her only requirement was to ‘make me beautiful.’ Please refer to case one: journalist examines how photoshop has become a symbol of unobtainable and cultural standard of beauty,’ in the PDP section of the blog for more information.
The aim of this classroom based project followed on from my initial idea/concept and examined how we would all as a classroom environment alter the image of two people, one woman and one man. The comparisons were remarkably different with some students clearly preferring not to alter the chosen images too far (i.e. get rid of the odd blemish here and there) while some altered their compositional portrait shots to a greater degree. However the results of our experiment into how we would make someone look more beautiful through the articulations of photoshop were not emphasised as much as the study on which this experiment is based.
As you can see by looking at the composition, it is not my style or believe that I should alter the image to a great degree. I altered the image only to remove the odd blemish as they are not considered to be a permanent characteristic of the individual. I altered the composition to monochrome as I feel that the subjects are more interesting in this way as the contrast adds interest to the overall composition and the individuals blend in with the background better making it an overall more aesthetically pleasing look.
Additionally, it has reaffirmed to me that altering in any image in photoshop is not desirable and should be achieved in camera on shoot. As neither image is completely flattering, I would suggest reshooting the image to obtain the best result.
What is next?
Photoshop allows us to achieve our unobtainable standards of beauty but when we compare those standards on a global scale, achieving the ideal remains all the more elusive. Eye colour, facial contours, waists, and hair colour were just some of the features that were changed in this experiment. Altering an image to this degree is not good for society as we can adhere then to a stereotype of what is beautiful and this test has proven that we all have different ideas on beauty, even in our own experimentation. I can conclude that from a personal perspective and viewpoint, beauty is therefore in the eye of the beholder and altering an image (other than removing the odd blemish) can interfere with nature that isnt healthy and this can set a precedence on how photographs of others can influence the influential. As a photographer, we have a moral responsibility to ensure that beauty remains as natural as possible without any unnecessary technical interference.
For additional research on this subject, please refer to the research folder where I look at different approaches to making photographs as part of a research project using a range of methods such as sociology, health studies, anthropology, education and human geography and last but not least, photo-elicitation. Photo-Elicitation has four distinct sub genres which are semiology, psychoanalysis, discourse analysis and audience participation. These are techniques I have applied and taken into consideration when altering the images above. The above of using an audience to generate debate was used in the classroom environment, semiology (symbols) looks at the stereotype of beauty and realises that alterations should be kept to a minimum if stereotypical observations are to be avoided. Discourse analysis is the discussions helds through the classroom environment and additionally looks at how I interpret the changes I have made by understanding what the client needs when a photograph is taken and although I didnt take the photographs in question, a debate and private dialogue ensues in how I alter them. Psychoanalysis can look at why and how people dress the way they do and examine my approach again to altering the image. For example, I looked at the image of the man and perceived from my own frame of reference that the braces look better in black and white as they have a connection to the old (hence the monochromatic approach).
These are just a few pointers that we look at and examine when attempting to read and alter a photograph. These are the methods that we can apply to understand our actions and those of other people.