Monday, June 1, 2009

Touchy? Touche!

While I was getting my blonde highlights touched up (ahem) last week, I took a peek at People’s “Most Beautiful” issue.

I breezed through the pages quickly, uninterested in the predictable glamour/makeup shots, but stopped when I came to the “au naturel” section, where women were photographed sans makeup except for a little lip gloss.

For me, those women, including Eva Mendes, Cindy Crawford, Claire Danes, as well as younger women like Ciara or the new 90210 cast were easily the most beautiful of the “most beautiful” issue because their own beauty was visible—it was not the work of a talented makeup artist. Of course, lighting and photography played a part in the “most beautiful” au naturel section, but it was a pleasure to see women unadorned by anything other than their own skin. (Sure the younger crowd has youth on its side, but do remember that John Keats did NOT write, "Beauty is youth; youth, beauty."

The NYT ran a story on photo retouching last week, using three different Reese Witherspoon covers to indicate how different she looked in each. I wouldn’t have recognized her on the far right cover (insert political joke here): I thought she looked generic, as if her personality were airbrushed out as well as her laugh lines.

Some of my favorite photographers are Dorothea Lange, Mary Ellen Mark, Diane Arbus, who keep one’s physical personality in the shot (I deliberately exclude Annie Leibowitz here). Of course these photographers often highlight unusual qualities in their subjects, but I think there’s an underlying honesty to their work.

I’d like to see more natural images—not staged environmental shots like the generic barefoot-at-home-relaxing pose—but beauty unmodified. I think we need to retrain our eyes before a media-induced soft filter permanently distorts our vision.


Sal said...

There seem to have been several spreads on makeup-free models and celebs recently. I wonder why this sudden focus on going natural ...

WendyB said...

Yes, Reese looks most unlike herself in that one photo.

La Belette Rouge said...

In pictures 2 and 3 of Reese, I wouldn't have recognized her.

Belle de Ville said...

"I think we need to retrain our eyes before a media-induced soft filter permanently distorts our vision."
I think that we are beyond this already when every image that we see is photoshopped or softened in some other way. We've created a society of women who will always be dissatisfied with our looks because we don't come naturally with photoshop improvements, and men who will always have unrealistic expectations.