Can you imagine opening your old high school yearbook and noticing that the high school photoshopped your picture so your complexion or clothes looked different? While some might not mind if it removed acne or other physical traits of being a teenager, seeing the reality of one’s real self being altered would likely disturb most people. And so it was with a Mormon Utah high school recently that went to extreme levels to digitally alter the clothing of high school students who supposedly violated the code of fashion. Gone also was a tattoo visible on one student who went against the Mormon rules of tarnishing the body.
While the Mormon school defends their right to do this, it shows the violations Photoshop and similar photo-altering software brought to our culture. When Photoshop first went on sale in 1990 exclusively for Apple’s Mac(intosh) computers, we looked at it as a simple graphic tool that could create elaborate artwork on a computer for the first time. Little did we know back then it would eventually become a photo-editing tool that would more or less alter our sense of reality.
As we know, the greatest technological tools are also the most abused. The collision of Photoshop’s true renaissance and the trend of models wanting to be skeletal skinny seems the most fateful convergence of events in technological history. It was by the late 1990s when we started seeing magazines taking their cover models and altering their arms, waist, and legs to make them look skinnier. For a time, it seems we didn’t notice until the media revealed to us that magazines started using Photoshop like it was cocaine.
After all these years, and the public being very aware of it, most major magazines are still using it. Plus, it looks even worse and more obvious now than it did in the more primitive days of the 1990s. It’s almost on the same trajectory of CGI where the more it advances, the more obvious it seems to look.
This isn’t to take away from Photoshop itself when numerous artistic advancements have been made as the result of the program. We’ve all used it and similar programs for projects that would have been otherwise impossible to create. Regardless, as a society, should we be attempting to remove the word “photoshopping” out of our vocabulary to restore a sense of reality we once had?
Digital Programs Changing Videos
It seems we also apply the word “photoshopping” to videos, which is potentially worse in a time when videos are seen every day on social media. Digital software is so affordable now that anybody can take a video and change it into something that fools far too many people. Those who work regularly with digital software professionally can usually scope it out, though how many videos do we see on Youtube every day that somehow fools more people than not? Nevertheless, the videos that look a little too unbelievable are usually littered in the comment section with automatic accusations of fakery. Digital programs have even ruined the era of videos showing supposed UFO’s in our airspace. In the 1990s, we saw a huge outpouring of unbelievable footage that’s since been watered down with digital tricks that confuses the masses on whether it’s real or not. When most of them get called out for digital manipulation, it ruins the possibility that a few may be the real thing.
If schools are starting to photoshop pictures, you have to wonder if they’d start in on videos to make their image look better. Plus, what about corporate photos in order to make everybody look more perfect? Some companies are already doing this to help the star executives look more attractive.
As much as we recognize Photoshop abuse, the more it seems we’re using the software to change reality and make it look extremely unnatural. Whenever we hear the word “photoshopped” again, we have to hope it’s related to something creative rather than finding something else that’s been altered. Considering those Utah high school yearbook photos also looked clearly unnatural, when will we finally let reality present itself for everybody’s benefit?
If we ever dare leave Photoshop strictly for creative projects and let reality stay as it is, we’d finally get back to a time when we took reality at face value. We should be able to handle it like adults as we did before, even if we’d see more of those truths on social media where we can finally judge them head-on.