Its 9:00 am, you wake up, and immediately reach for your phone, scrolling through your social media: your Facebook, your Snapchat or your Instagram, as you do. Scanning through your news feed, you’re reading posts from celebrities or models, pausing to peruse it, envying their extravagant lifestyle. You come across a picture of said celebrity: nicely dressed, well posed, and standing in the middle of a walkway, in Milan or Rome, or even Fashion Week in NYC. Or how about, when you see the same person next to their Maybach, and during that moment it’s as if someone took the perfect snap shot of that fleeting moment. While you’re sitting there on your bed and you think to yourself “Wow, why can’t that be me? Why can’t I have a picture perfect life where people will take random pictures of me in public?” Does this story sound familiar to you?
The photographs that you see in your news feed are artificial and a lie. The photograph is well-groomed, a manufactured appearance of likeness. The intention is to sell the public on an immaculate fantasy of wealth, status, and other worldly self-perception. The photograph was taken from a scheduled, well thought out photo-shoot several days prior. The picture you like is phony because it is heavily edited to alter the persons looks like their eyes, hair and body shape. The photograph looks as if the person is laying in the shade by a tree in Monaco but in actuality they are in a studio, with a fake tree and a pre-made side walk assembled in a local factory. The perfect sun rays comes from a 500-lumen studio light from a Best Buy down the street. The camera was effortlessly positioned at the right angle to convey the feel of Monaco, as well as to strengthen the achieved over all look. The photographer takes the selective content that he photographed and gives it context to get the illusion of a sunny Monacan day in rainy Seattle.
After the photo is captured, the photograph is sent to an Editor, who is a magician of sorts, to edit the photograph’s final appearance in a program called Photoshop. This magician transforms the model’s body figure to any size with just a few clicks of a mouse. Her hair, eyes, and features can all be changed to match any newly found trend. The blemishes on her skin can be easily removed with the cynically named “Blemish Removal Tool”, extinguishing most of — if not all — the model’s natural attractiveness to attain the shared notion of insincere beauty. With this skillful editing, he essentially creates a whole new person; there becomes two models: the idealistic girl in the photo and the model herself. He doesn’t just edit the model herself, he edits the environment around her by removing the light stands, the glare from the reflecting paper background, and photo-shopping the perfect accessories. This causes the entire photo to look more and more aesthetically pleasing and to flesh out the story of the photo.
These types of photos are attractive to us because they play with our desires and insecurities. They activate our need for a better body, sex appeal, and our desire for the ideal life that the photo displays in front of us compared to the one we are living right now. They intrigue our imagination, of what could be if we were the models. The sense of importance the photo gives its subject is so incredibly powerful, that we ourselves fall victim to believing the subject is important. Even if the subject is an 18 year old Instagram celebrity who got famous by sharing her opinions on YouTube, this illusion of importance causes us to create similar photos. By staging and editing our photos, we strive for the same visual social status as our idols.
These photos affect how we want to be perceived in the world, making us vigorously edit a selfie, or stage a meal with friends. We start to create a new online self, different from the one we grew up being. photographs lets us pick and choose how our community sees us. They ultimately degrade the genuine qualities of our life.