Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Marketing a Perverse Reality

A friend of mine had a copy of Oprah sitting on her counter. Now, I should start by saying I am a supermarket tabloid headline junkie. I love laughing at the absurdity of what I read while online at the supermarket. I actually seek out the lines that have the most tabloids. The fodder is just too much to pass up. Take for instance the headline about Tom Cruise's child Suri that I read last week on Star Magazine's cover. It read "Inside Suri's Strange World! No TV, NO Happy Meals!..." My goodness! Is America so caught up with its junk food and the boob tube that these are the things that concern us most about Scientology?

Anyway, today I glanced through Oprah. I had never before read the inside of the magazine. I only chuckled over the ridiculousness of having the same woman's picture on a magazine week after week. I have nothing against Oprah. As a librarian, I love the way her book club turns people onto reading. I like how she can energize the populace. I admire what she has done with her life and her seeming desire to help others. I admire that she can get away with naming a magazine after herself AND having her own picture on the cover...but I digress...The thing that struck me about Oprah's magazine was the ads inside. I especially loved the obviously photoshopped make-up ad that said "Nothing is too close," as if the pleasantly softened complexion was the model's real skin. The ad about wrinkle cream where some of the model's wrinkles were taken out and only the most attractive laugh lines were left in was a hoot and a half. But I am a photographer. I know that non-photographers know about photoshop, but how many understand exactly what it can do and how it is being used?

At the risk of giving away secrets, here is one of my more popular still lifes:

You may not be able to see it well in this thumbnail. The colors are vibrant. the details blurred and softened. Harsh light and shadows have been altered. Contrast has been boosted. The image has been cropped.

Here is the original:

A pretty image can be polished to perfection. I always keep in the back of my mind that what I see may not be what is real. Photography walks a fine line. As photographers, we have a duty to record reality - to show others the truth that we discover. Sometimes that truth is beautiful, at other times it is painful or horrific. But, as photographers we are also artists. New technologies give us the ability to play with reality to share a personal vision of loveliness. Our viewers must be aware of our abilities to play with reality. Viewers of photographs should be prepared to make informed judgments of the images before them. Photography should not be trickery to sell products or a perverse view of reality.

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