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Truth & Beauty

'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all 
    Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'

--John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn

Except, of course, when beauty is NOT truth, as in the case of elaborately retouched fashion photos.  Counterfeit Chic reader Peggy suggests we open our eyes to reality by checking out the faux beauties at Digital Pablo -- just move your cursor over the luminous models to see what they really look like.  Some develop cheekbones or breasts, others lose freckles or blemishes, many get a tan or new hair.  Given that even fashion's "before" pictures are the work of a team of stylists, makeup artists, hairdressers, and a professional photographer, it's no wonder that our own mirrors seem such harsh critics. 

Some retouching is so elaborate that it's unclear whether the underlying photo was really necessary.  Take a look at Behnaz Sarafpour (below) after another retoucher, Glenn Feron, worked his dubious magic for Fashion Week Daily

Behnaz Sarafpour in Fashion Week Daily 9-13-05

In the early years of photography, granting copyright to photos was controversial.  Courts wondered whether a photo was an original artistic work or a mere "reproduction on paper of the exact features of some natural object or of some person."  Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony, 111 U.S. 53, 56 (1884).  In that case, involving a picture of Oscar Wilde, the court recognized the creative nature of the work and its copyrightability -- paving the way for not only professional photographers but also retouchers who further alter those "exact features," creating works of near-fiction eligible for copyrights of their own.  (Beyond the question of intellectual property rights, the legal picture is further complicated by the question of the evidentiary value of photographs, a historical subject explored by Jennifer Mnookin.)

According to an aphorism attributed to Otto von Bismarck, those who love laws and sausages should watch neither being made.  It seems that the same goes for those who find truth or beauty in fashion photographs.

Comments

Behnaz looks ubercreepy in the retouching. I'm all about taking out the occasional pimple (hell, I do it myself on my own photos), but she looks plasticine. I think that's why I hardly ever like American Vogue layouts--the girls start looking slimy, like flat-chested human/Barbie /SIMS hybrids.

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