This is an old picture (last August) and doesn’t really look a whole lot like me anyway, but was the best I could think of to demonstrate my point today.
Yesterday afternoon I was in a foul mood. You might have thought it was to do with being stuck in a training session when I had a deadline to hit… and it’s true, that probably didn’t help… but in hindsight, a lot of it was down to the subject of the training in question.
The session was on photoshop, and was led by a guy who has done professional photography for various top-end fashion glossies. He was showing us how to touch-up photos to create model perfection – taking out scars, covering blemishes, altering hair lines, lifting out bags… Don’t get me wrong, it was fascinating, but as he smoothed out the lovely girl’s pores and covered small moles and freckles on her cheeks, I found myself feeling distinctly frustrated. I mean, this woman was a stunner, no question, and we were getting rid of stray hairs, flecks of mascara – even a single speck of dandruff.
I love this picture of myself. But after watching the photoshop artist’s work I realised how imperfect it was, how much work it would need to make it acceptable to “the industry”. See that curl of hair in front of my ear? That would have to go. And the shine inside my ear and under my eyes? Needs to be matte. My eyebrows need tidying, the creases around my lips need a smoother line, the patch where my hair looks slightly thinner needs filling in, and all the freckles, blemishes and creases of my forehead need evening out. That’s before I get started on big things; the red-eye, the bump in my nose and the wrinkled, scarred skin around my neckline.
As depressing and frustrating as the whole session was, I came out feeling that this should be a lesson taught in every school across the country. Dress it up as graphic design – it will probably pack more punch subconsciously than any self-esteem lecture could – and show the kids what models – beautiful, stunning men and women – really look like! They are beautiful and stunning, but they have spots, they have freckles, they have worry- and laughter-lines and even scars. Despite everything the magazines tell us, they’re not “flawless”.
For the record, I wouldn’t have this picture touched-up for anything. Ok, I’d maybe remove the red-eye, but I’d have no part of my own face, skin, colouring or otherwise altered. I want to be able to look at this photo in 50 years and remember the tiny cupid’s bow lips I was teased for at school, the ski-jump bump at the end of my nose, my strawberry blond locks and my wonderful freckles. I want to recall that I never plucked my eyebrows and had forehead creases before 30. And I want to show my kids and grand-kids that not everyone at the start of the century looked like a plastic Barbie doll. It’s important that they know that.