Lena Dunham Vogue Photoshop debate rages on
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Published on January 23, 2014
Earlier this month, Lena Dunham, writer and star of the HBO TV show "Girls" appeared on the cover of Vogue magazine. Ordinarily, this would raise few eyebrows, but women's interest blog Jezebel soon put a stop to all that by offering a $10,000 "bounty" for unaltered images of Dunham's shoot. Reigniting the debate over the standardized use of Adobe Photoshop in the mainstream media, the stunt shows no sign of slowing down any time soon, with opinions from all angles coming thick and fast about the fashion industry and Photoshop's place within it.
Storm in a teacup?
At the heart of the debate lies Dunham's position on image manipulation. Thanks in part to the explosive popularity of "Girls," and her outspoken attitude about standards of beauty in the mainstream media, Dunham has become something of a spokeswoman for body realists everywhere.
Things became complicated, however, when Dunham's Vogue shoot was digitally enhanced. Although widely considered to be a promotional stunt, Jezebel's $10,000 bounty did in fact yield the original images from the shoot, though the Los Angeles Times reported that a Vogue staffer has been fired in connection with the incident. The images themselves were not manipulated as heavily as some have been in the past, but Dunham has faced harsh criticism for allowing her shoot to be adjusted at all.
Dunham has dismissed claims that she is a hypocrite, saying that although her photos were adjusted in Photoshop, the shoot itself still has value.
"I don't understand why, Photoshop or no, having a woman who is different from the typical Vogue cover girl could be a bad thing," Dunham told reporters last week, as quoted by the Los Angeles Times.
A national conversation
Some people don't mind the sometimes excessive use of Photoshop in the fashion and entertainment industries. Others have called for an outright ban on image manipulation, claiming it sends the wrong message to impressionable youths. However, others still claim that the use of digital post-production is an essential part of these industries, and isn't going away any time soon.
"I feel like it's been going on since the film world," CJ Richards, a male model, told a panel of editors from Cosmopolitan magazine, as quoted by The Huffington Post. "Why would you watch a movie without special effects? You understand that this isn't real. There's Photoshop in magazines and special effects in movies. I mean, it happens. So accept it and know that this is actually a real person underneath all of the computerized effects that they're adding in."
Richards certainly isn't alone in his opinions regarding retouching, but even experienced models take exception to the excessive use of Photoshop from time to time. Amber Tolliver, a model for Aeropostale's aerie line of clothing, told The Huffington Post that over-the-top Photoshop work sometimes makes her question why an agency would book her in the first place, but conceded that she doesn't mind a little retouching every now and again, depending on the nature of the shoot.
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About the author
Jennifer Smith is a user experience designer, Photoshop expert, educator and author based in Boston. She is the author of more than 20 books on design tools and processes, including Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies, Adobe Creative Cloud Digital Classroom, and Photoshop Digital Classroom. She has been awarded a Microsoft MVP three times for her work with user experience design in creating apps for touch, desktop, and mobile devices.
Jennifer delivers UX training and UX consulting for large Fortune 100 companies, small start-ups, and independent software vendors. She has been hired by Adobe and Microsoft to deliver training workshops to their staff, and has traveled to Asia, Europe, India, the Middle East, and across the U.S. to deliver courses and assist on UX design projects. She has extensive knowledge of modern Windows UX Design, having worked closely with the Windows team to create educational material and deliver UX workshops to key partners globally on behalf of Microsoft. Jennifer works with a wide range of prototyping tools including Fireworks, Photoshop, Illustrator, Blend for Visual Studio, and Balsamiq.