Usually in advertising we see Photoshop used in ways that are objectionable for the statement they make about women’s body size and skin color: airbrushing is used to slim down thighs, arms and tummies or to lighten skin. But in a photo of Karlie Kloss for Numéro magazine, we see another side of airbrushing — one that gets rid of the model’s deeply protruding ribs. The original image (left) is so jarring that to see the airbrushed image (right) is a literal shock.
As noted by the blog Fashion Copious, photographer Greg Kadel’s original photographers for Numéro‘s October issue (which you can see in full here) show Kloss with her arms stretched above her head, her clavicle practically concave, and her ribs jutting out almost skeletally. Because this is real life, not “America’s Next Top Model,” we don’t know what sort of directions the model was given. Lean back? Stretch your arms? Jut out your ribs? How was lighting or makeup used in during this shoot? We don’t know: Greg Kadel’s photographs alone show an obviously very skinny model in an awkward pose, but we don’t have any clue as to what he was “going for,” as Tyra would say.
In any case, Numéro ran the jutting-ribs image differently than the photographer shot it. In the editorial that ran in Numéro, the protruding bones from Karlie Kloss’ body have been Photoshopped so well that the skin almost looks taut.
Now, I realize probably every single image I look at in a magazine or on a billboard has been Photoshopped somehow. Like it or not, it exists and is used by all sorts of companies (from magazines to advertising to paparazzi photo agencies) to improve their bottom line, so it’s here to stay. There’s no sense in railing against it. But I do object to using Photoshop in ways that radically alter a woman’s body when that’s not the purpose of the piece. (Like, say, Photoshopping a horn on a woman for a unicorn photo shoot.) And I’m not just talking about when some model loses their waist or their leg to an overzealous Photoshop-er; I mean slimming models down so they don’t even look like themselves anymore. To radically distort women’s bodies in ways that are seen as “improvements” is dishonest and in my opinion, contributes to the fucked up body image problems women have in heavily mediated countries. These “improvements” portray the subject in a way that is patently untrue, although the viewer does not know it.
In this case, Numéro airbrushed this jutting-rib Karlie Kloss image for a reason. I, as the viewer, am having trouble wrapping my head around what this means. Is it a good thing they Photoshopped Kloss — did they think photographer Greg Kadel’s original pic was too severe? Or is it a bad thing that they Photoshopped away the jarring, scary-looking ribs because as scary as they may be, they present the “truth”? (And by “truth” I mean as much truth as there can be with makeup and lighting and whatnot.) I suppose the reason is that the magazine did not want her looking so skinny that she looks sick. Fashion Copious agrees, writing that the magazine is being “extra cautious.” (Although the blog seems not to find the original image as problematic as me.) That’s not going to look good for them, they knew it, and so they photoshopped her. And while I realize the larger structural problem is the enormous pressure on models to be uber-skinny, I can’t help but be annoyed that the jarring image — the reality — was radically altered when upon [typo:
What do you think about this image being airbrushed? Let us know in the comments.