How often have you heard of the portrayal of women in photography involving a heavy degree of “touching up”? In a more conventional sense of the term, touching up originally meant finding a way to correct errors in the photograph, or to enhance it by adding an element or two to cover anything unpleasant. With time, as technology offered more and more options to play around with in photograph editing, touching up photographs became a whole new field altogether.
As the world of media and film portrayals of women evolved from a stage of respecting bodies for what they were, to tailor making bodies as the ideal yardstick, the revolution of touching up photographs soon became a phenomenon of morphing bodies to suit the thin-is-in and the fair-is-in standards. Models soon began appearing on covers of magazines and in newsprint images with high cheekbones and set jawlines, next to no stomachs and skinny waistlines, generously endowed cleavage and sharp collarbones, and skin tones that ranged from bronze to pale, with zero blemishes.
At first, it was phenomenal, what was being done with these photographs: women were made to look stunning, with their perfectly sculpted bodies and chiseled features, replete with the perfect complexion. But a time came when the synthetic element came forth, and the pursuit turned towards authenticity. For a long time, even in stock photography, chiseled bodies came to replace the real ones. Women were portrayed in an almost sexist tone, and the photographs of bodies that were orchestrated or engineered using technology on the prints, couldn’t quite remain as able in telling stories of authenticity. Instead, they reeked of domineering agendas of projecting “appropriate” standards of perceived beauty.
Regardless of what it is that you shoot a woman’s photograph for, the key is to remain authentic. In stock photography, you curate a picture for years at a time, and portray what you saw behind the lens, as capable of telling different stories. Editing the structure of a woman’s body and altering the skin tone is perhaps in pursuit of a commercial agenda to typify bodies and sell them as ideal, or less than ideal, and to shame those that do not conform. A photograph is an effort to craft a visual element alongside something that is being expressed. The key to ensure that it does what it is set out to do, is to remain honest in the story your photograph tells, and that honesty comes from authenticity. The more authentic your photograph is, the more truth it conveys, and the more truth it tells, the greater value it has for the recipient.