Sarah Abdurrahman is a producer for On the Media
Thursday, July 28, 2011 - 05:32 PM
Apparently the reason regular people don’t look like the models and celebrities in cosmetics ads is because cosmetics ads are photoshopped. Who knew? Well, actually, everyone knew. But still, there is something alluring about the possibility that the product advertised could work for you. Perhaps that’s why the Advertising Standards Authority, which regulates advertising in the UK, has banned two makeup ads from future publication in Britain.
The ads in question are for Lancome and Maybeline, both companies owned by L’Oreal, and feature Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington respectively. A member of the British Parliament, Jo Swinson, complained about the digital alteration of the ads, saying they were “not representative of the results the product could achieve.” Lancome called the picture of Roberts “aspirational” and Maybelline said Turlington’s picture showed what the product could do, despite being digitally altered.
The description of the Lancolm ad as “aspirational” reminded me of the now infamous photoshopping by Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram of an image of former president Hosni Mubarak. In the original photo, Hosni Mubarak is lagging behind Obama and other world leaders at the White House, but the doctored photo shows him in the lead. The paper’s editor called the image “expressionist.”
This altering of reality seems to happen quite a bit, with some examples more distasteful than others. Earlier this year, an advertisement for a law firm specializing in 9/11 lawsuits featured a firefighter with soot on his face, holding an image of Ground Zero with the text “I Was There” in large letters.
The man in the ad was indeed a firefighter, but not in 2001 and not at Ground Zero. In fact, the image of Ground Zero in his hands was photoshopped in later. And earlier this month, there was potentially another dictator Glamour Shots moment with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. An image expert at the Guardian says the image, which purports to show Assad swearing in a newly appointed governor, actually looks like two images combined to look like the men are in the same room.
It used to be that a photograph served as evidence of reality, but the ease with which we can alter images these days, and the lack of negatives with digital photos, makes it harder and harder to believe what we see. Whether it’s in an advertisement trying to sell us a product, a government trying to convince us of a lie, or a newspaper editor trying to suck up to his dictator boss, it seems that we simply cant trust pictures anymore.