Photoshopping flaws

  • This new wave of embracing failure, while a welcome antidote to the Instagram age.” – Ali Panthony

It’s not just process of photography, but the subjects themselves that could use some exposure to failure. The Insta-age of prepped, plucked, primped, plastic surgeried, posed and photoshopped seems to be on a crusade of eradicating all failure from popular depiction of “daily” life.

Ali Panthony’s article “All over the gaffes: why failing isn’t so bad anymore” offers hope asserting:

  • We are living in the age of all-encompassing perfectionism. On social media, we’re bombarded with carefully curated, Facetuned portrayals of all aspects of people’s lives. Offline, post-work drinks turn into daily updates of peers’ proposals, pregnancies and promotions. New definitive user manuals are launched every day with advice on how best to live our lives, from being the perfect parent to fool-proofing your career path. In this anti-error era, you’d be forgiven for assuming that failure is not an option. But bubbling away beneath the filtered feeds, a quiet anti-perfectionism revolution is underway, and its manifesto is all about embracing your mistakes. Social media selfies are becoming less performative and among savvy Instagrammers, to filter your appearance is seen as cringey rather than cool. There’s a rise in frank accounts such as @averageparentproblems with 445k followers, hashtags encouraging authenticity (like #womenirl: 108,000+ posts of cellulite, breast pumps and burnt toast). It’s on our screens, too. In her brilliant Channel 4 triptych, All Woman, Kathy Burke examines what it is to be a woman today, and explores the expectations women are unfairly beholden to.”

Paul Dolan, professor of behavioural science at LSE and author of “Happy Ever After: Escaping the Myth of the Perfect Life” adds:

  • “People like us more when we’re our real, flawed, crap selves — we’d all hate someone who was genuinely perfect, right? So being open, honest and sharing that crapness creates solidarity through shared experience. It’s about getting away from the images we create on social media, and getting back to the real world.”

Victoria Haltom of Victoria Caroline Photography (photo from portfolio above) shares the poignant specific example in the Buzzfeed piece “After Seeing His Wife In Sexy Photoshopped Photos, A Husband Said He Missed Her ‘Flaws’” of a glossy photoshoot which had the opposite of the intended effect. But a powerful effect of appreciating the photogenic ‘failures’ which tell the story of a life well lived:

  • “These pictures…while they are beautiful and you are clearly a very talented photographer…they are not my wife. You made every one of her ‘flaws’ disappear…and while I’m sure this is exactly what she asked you to do, it took away everything that makes up our life. When you took away her stretch marks, you took away the documentation of my children. When you took away her wrinkles, you took away over two decades of our laughter, and our worries. When you took away her cellulite, you took away her love of baking and all the goodies we have eaten over the years. I am not telling you all of this to make you feel horrible, you’re just doing your job and I get that. I am actually writing you to thank you. Seeing these images made me realize that I honestly do not tell my wife enough how much I LOVE her and adore her just as she is.”