Although photo manipulation changes how a person looks, the photo, in essence, remains the same. Photo manipulation is a great tool that we have thanks to advances in technology. Why would a child with a scar on their face want to be remembered for that scar? Or a child with slightly yellowed teeth need that on display for eternity?
Photo manipulation offers a way for these kids to look their absolute best, and as a result, feel their best too. It is a win-win situation. Dr. Bradley Peterson says that those with “socially stigmatizing features” can build confidence if those features are toned down in their photos. Furthermore, many photo alterations in school portraits eliminate temporary features such as acne or a cut. These blemishes are not actually a part of the student’s face, so the photo retouching does nothing to alter the child- merely returning them to their natural state.
But what if those photo manipulations were used on a wider scale? A common controversy today is the thinning down of fashion models to unhealthy sizes. I still believe that is okay. Fashion shoots are an art and if a photographer feels like a thinner model will work better for the piece, then there should be no problem with touching up the photo. It is not as if the models themselves are truly that thin. Since it is widely known that this retouching is done, people should be aware and simply understand that this is art.
Another case involving photo manipulation that generated much controversy was a Time cover featuring an altered OJ Simpson. On the cover, Simpson appeared darker than he really was and with shadows around his face. The entire cover had a dark, eerie feel about it leading some to accuse the “white man as stacking the deck by demonizing the black man.” Matt Muhrin, the illustrator who manipulated the photo, defended it saying that he made it “more compelling.” In a trial that highlighted racial tensions in America, did Muhrin have a right to alter that photo? My view is yes. The aim of a magazine is to sell copies, and his edited photo was indeed more compelling than the photo they eventually replaced it with. A photo tells a story, and this story was entitled “An American Tragedy.” This story was told much better with a darker cover, than one of a Simpson in a courtroom. While still good, it did not have the same emotional impact.
Maslin, Sarah. “No Boo-boos or Cowlicks?” The New York TImes. 19 Nov. 2010. Web. 9 Feb. 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/20/nyregion/20retouch.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2>
Zabel, Bryce. “O.J.’s Last Run: A Tale of Two Covers – Blogcritics Sports.” Blogcritics – News Reviews and Opinion. 31 Aug. 2005. Web. 09 Feb. 2011. <http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/ojs-last-run-a-tale-of/>.