“Cate Blanchett goes sans Photoshop for magazine cover,” the headline read. I don’t know if the link will carry over but here it is if you want to read the story without my musings: http://thelook.today.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/03/21/10796953-cate-blanchett-goes-sans-photoshop-for-magazine-cover.
I love stories like hers for a number of reasons:
1. That this is something so unusual it gets a story.
2. That at the age of 42 Cate’s photograph is considered risky, or brave, or both.
3. That I have mixed feelings about photoshopping. Who gets to decide on whether it should be used? The model or the publisher? Is it always bad?
4. Do cultural norms decry natural looking people?
5. That it happens at all.
First of all, I’ve become so accustomed to seeing perfect faces beaming off magazine covers that it barely makes me blink anymore. And by faces I mean female faces. I think men can have laugh lines, frown lines, and “rugged” features and still be a cover guy.
I probably mentioned this before but it bears repeating…when I was in Tibet last summer I traveled with a professional photographer. Russell Monk (Google his photography if interested. http://russellmonk.com. He does great work.) has traveled the world and hobnobbed with the famous.
One day at a hostel he came across a discarded American magazine. It was fairly current and I don’t recall if it was Glamour or ??. Russell stared at the cover for some time. I was thinking he was enjoying the lovely blond actress displayed and smirked to myself. After a while he looked at me with a furrowed brow. “Gail, tell me why in the world anyone would find this woman attractive from this photograph?” I was baffled. She looked perfect to me. “Exactly!” Russell said. “She is so airbrushed that she has no character at all. I believe she is probably gorgeous in real life, but this picture makes her a blank. I find absolutely nothing interesting in her face.” I believe I actually thanked him for being a man who noticed such things, and he seemed insulted that I felt that way.
Cate Blanchette is a creaky and dangerously old 42. It’s lucky they were able to snap her photograph without her walker and support hose in the frame, but I guess the photographer got lucky. 42! The caption under Cate’s photograph reads, “Brave and beautiful: Actress Cate Blanchett went without makeup for the latest cover of Intelligent Life magazine.” So, if she’s beautiful does that diminish her braveness? The article also mentions two other celebrities that went on magazine covers supposedly without Photoshopping—a 29-year old Jessica Simpson, and a 25-year old Lady Gaga. How about showing some women with a few more miles and smiles on their faces? How about talking about their beauty?
Is Photoshopping always bad? I don’t think so. Sometimes it is kinder to remove a newly sprouted blemish or to blot out the red-eyes from a flash. Those are probably not natural to the individual on a regular basis, so why not? It can be fun, with the model’s permission, to change the color of lipstick or to soften the focus and lend an ethereal effect. But it gets more muddled when Photoshopping means removing all vestiges of character, like Russell mentioned. Or when it physically changes a person’s shape or features. That negates the person in my view. Even more so when the publisher decides on whether the image is “good enough” and leaves the model no choice in the matter. Why ask a person to be on the cover if you’re going to change who she is–or at least looks like?
I think if all magazines stopped airbrushing and Photoshopping we’d have a culture crash. What? People have flaws and live? Nooooo! You mean twenty-five year old women have bags and freckles and crooked teeth? No way. I’d suggest showing photographs of middle-aged and older women, but now I’m just being silly. That only happens, sometimes, with actresses, the famous, and on geriatric focused publications.
Still, when I saw the article concerning Cate I was quick to pull it up. I find her a mesmerizing actress and woman. I could care less if her talent and character happens to come in a gorgeous package. As it is, she ended up with great genes along with all her other attributes. I don’t know if it was her idea to go natural, but it wouldn’t surprise me. What I applaud is choice, and Cate has enough clout to have that too.