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Every day’s media bring enormous numbers of new developments in the “after photography” realm. What happens when we stop thinking of cameras and start thinking of images? What happens when the photographer, particularly the professional, is only a piece of the puzzle? Is all of this still to be considered photography?

Fox News, for example, is suddenly apoplectic that the current Newsweek cover of Sarah Palin is, of all things, NOT retouched! Even though they cannot show what they are talking about on television (evidently the nuances are too subtle) they complain that not treating Palin like a cover girl is a plot to sink her candidacy. Pit bull or cover girl? It can be confusing. Obama’s cover photo, one of Fox’s guests argues, was retouched — but not Palin. It is an extraordinary time when not retouching a candidate for vice-president could be considered an attack. Seems like only yesterday the McCain camp was distraught over photographer Jill Greenberg’s retouched photos of Senator McCain from a photo shoot for The Atlantic magazine.

From the New York Times

Then there is the New York Times front-page style section report on Israeli computer programmers who have come up with software — what the Times calls a “beautification engine”—to remake a person’s (white) face according to what 68 young Israelis and Germans thought was the most attractive look. The algorithm rearranges a person’s face according to 234 measurements concerning the allegedly best distances between features such as lips and chin or forehead and eyes. Undoubtedly the Palin camp, and quite a few other celebrities, will be complaining if magazines don’t use it on them. In my opinion it makes everyone look like some version of Barbarella.

When thinking about a Robert Frank’s photographs of America in the 1950s or a contemporary Stephen Shore color photograph, it seems like we are talking about a very different medium. Once photography was about something; now it seems increasingly to be a form of silly putty for nearly anyone to squeeze.


  1. Giovanni DB wrote:

    All of this is pretty scary. Even more if we think that there is young people around getting surgery done to look like photoshoped models. I can believe this “beautification engine” being in the lobby of a plastic surgeon!

    Thursday, October 16, 2008 at 10:20 am | Permalink
  2. Regele IONESCU wrote:

    Beauty is socially determined. Asking a group of Germans and Israelis what they like is relevant only for their societies. Asking a group of Mongols would lead to different results. Then how does it come they asked Germans(the people that once wanted to create the most beautiful and the best human race) and their former victims(Israelis)? Why have not they asked Egyptians, Romanians, Russians, Greeks, Italians too?

    God help us all!

    Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 1:50 am | Permalink
  3. Marie Smith wrote:

    I agree that this is disturbing as a social trend. But have to point out that this corresponds to a study done by Victor Johnston at NMSU on ‘our perceptions of beauty.’ A study in which he used the same computer technology. Saw this on a documentary titled “Survival of the Prettiest”. Very interesting and enlightening documentary on human nature.

    Sunday, March 15, 2009 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

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