Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Seeing is believing. Or NOT.

I probably need a new publicity photo. But my last photo session was so traumatic. . .

The photographer I used had all the latest digital equipment and after the sitting I was ushered into a room with a sofa and a movie screen. . . and forced to scrutinize my photo at 9000 magnifications. !!! Nobody should have to look at their own pores, chin hair, and developing wrinkles at 10,000-foot-woman size! The sofa was obviously there to catch customers who faint from horror. The guy asked if I wanted him to "take care" of those lines around my eyes and maybe smooth out my skin tone and make my teeth whiter.

I left reeling. It took two iced Vente no-fat triple-shot caramel no-whip macchiatos and the sacrifice of batallions of miscellaneous cookies to make the horror dissipate

But it's not just me. The pressure is on everyone, everywhere to look better than they actually do. Take Katie, here. Perky, adorable, sweet, believable, earnest anchor of the CBS news machine. She who should be counted on to give us the Truth. . . as in "the facts, m'am." CBS apparently felt she needed a digital nip and tuck and the photo on the right, below, was the result.

When this came out, it was quite the story. They had slimmed Katie's waist. Without her permission or even knowledge! They blythely doctor her image, then expect us to believe that they won't doctor the "news" she gives us. Maybe I'm making too much of this. . . but even in confessing that they doctored the photo, they didn't tell the truth. Waist? Yeah. And arms. And chin. And whitened her teeth. And got rid of a few age spots on her hands. See for yourself!

You know, don't you, that many courts of law now refuse to accept photographs or video as evidence? The only photos routinely allowed are those from the crime scene investigators themselves. Every other image is considered potentially altered. How much of what we see can we count on to be real these days? How sure can we be of what we know and don't know?

I'm guessing we really went to the moon. . . because that was back in 1969 and they didn't have digital correction then. Still, some people say the whole lunar landing thing was shot in a studio. But, that "alien autopsy". . . I'm starting to think that might have been a fake. And all of those pictures of microbes and sea life in National Geographic. . . who's to say those aren't just the brainchild of some nerd in the basement with good computer equipment? And stars. . . I mean, do you ever really look at the night sky? Did you actually see Haley's comet when it came by in 1986? Neither did I. This is supposed to be a picture. . .

See what I mean? It looks like somebody spilled paint and tried to wipe it up. And I'm starting to worry that some of my favorite hunks and starlets might not be quite so. . . desirable.

And if you really want to see depressing, check out this unretouched photo of Faith Hill from her Redbook cover. jezebel.com/gossip/photoshop-of.../heres-our-winner-redbook-shatters-our-faith-in-well-not-publishing-but-maybe-god-278919.php

Sigh. When they have to "improve" Faith Hill, we're all in trouble.

Getting serious for a moment. It used to be that a photograph was a moment captured in time. . . actions and images caught and stored as memory. Dependable. Lasting. For good or for ill.

It seems that we've traded "certainty" for "possibility" in our lives. Everything is possible. . . but everything is also open to revision. Memories, ideas, actions, and images can all be modified with the click of a button or the slide of a mouse. That's a lot of power at our fingertips, but that freedom comes with a price. And a responsibility: the burden of vigilant skepticism. Who do we trust to tell us the truth? Do we recognize the truth when we hear or see it?

Okay. . . this is what happens when I stay up writing waaaaay after midnight.

Back to my original problem. To airbrush or not to airbrush?

Is it better to look great in print and on line and risk disappointing people in person, or to just bare it all and let people see all the glorious human flaws from the start? Considering that there may be a bias against "aging" writers, is it wise to let the gray and crow's feet show?

What about you? Have you ever met or "encountered" a celebrity in person that shocked or disappointed you? Who/what do you trust these days to tell you the truth? What are your trusted sources?


Venus Vaughn said...

Let your real self be seen - cautiously.

I've been known to photoshop, you can't have a MySpace account without it, it seems. But only the temporary flaws. Just the pimples, really. Once I changed the color of my shirt, but that's about it.

For authors, there's nothing less appealing than a Glamor Shot. I don't care what the publicists say (which is why I'm not one), the consumer knows that a glamor shot of an author is the closest to plastic you will ever come.

I like to see a real smile, in a real location, with real eye contact. Find a photographer you trust, get out of the house into (modest) sunshine and let him or her compliment the heck out of you until you're relaxed enough to let your insides show. That will be a good picture. It will be one readers respond to.

We forgive flaws. We distrust fake.

Kylie said...

I once saw an author whom I'd only seen in glamor shots for the first time in real life and rocked back. "Whoa!" I found myself thinking. "Musta been a bad accident!" LOL!

That said, well of course I have them smooth the lines in my photos. Looking at the percentage of people who are going to see the photo and not me in real life, I'm ok with that.

Of course I'd also be ok with a face lift if I could afford it....

And I like Katie Couric with or without touch ups. My beef is with the bias that is still so pervasive in the public world that it's only the 'women' who have to be touched up and kept youthful looking while the men are allowed to age. Grrr!

lois greiman said...

Betina, you are always amusing and enlightening.

And not alone in this. My daughter, 19, tall, svelte, gorgeous (in my opinion) won't look at photos of herself. If she needs some taken I have to pick them out. Which, I think, tells us that we are far too critical of ourselves. On the other hand, ageism is alive and well (and not aging) so I have no idea how far far to go to look good.

lois greiman said...

Betina, you are always amusing and enlightening.

And not alone in this. My daughter, 19, tall, svelte, gorgeous (in my opinion) won't look at photos of herself. If she needs some taken I have to pick them out. Which, I think, tells us that we are far too critical of ourselves. On the other hand, ageism is alive and well (and not aging) so I have no idea how far far to go to look good.

Jill Sorenson said...

Love the pic of the celebrities! I should show my hubby that one of Angelina Jolie. He likes her (gag).

It's great when an author photo actually looks like the author, but there's nothing wrong with a bit of retouching. It's like makeup. Everyone needs it.

Arkansas Cyndi said...

I followed the link to the Faith Hill article and got lost there for a long time. Very interesting. I am trying to decide whether to go on a rant about how all this phototouching contributes to the negative self-image women have about themselves or just let it go.

I will say that I have walked right past authors at RWA conferences because the woman in person looked nothing like the woman in the photographs!

Michele Hauf said...

And that is why I never have my picture taken. I'm camera-phobic, and it is because I always look like a 'before' picture. ;-) Seriously, I need a new head shot. It's been more than a decade since my last one, and that one is getting a little embarassing because it is Glamour Shots, and I dont' look like that anymore, and I would scare the crap out of Kylie.
I'm just waiting for a good hair day to do it. I've been waiting for years.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Betina, I love your photo. That's you. The expression is so Betina--friendly, upbeat, and a tiny a little bit mischievous. You've always photographed well, so don't sweat it. I'd use this photo forever.

I hate having my picture taken. Hate. And it always shows. I did the glam shot thing, and I don't know who that woman was. Whose hair did she have? uh-uh, not mine.

So I'm just keeping my photos from how ever many years past. Not the glam--the blazer and turtleneck. At least I recognize that woman.

Those celeb shots are high-larious!

Cindy Gerard said...

Every time I have a photo taken I swear it will be the last one. And yes, I've had them touched up a bit but I'm loving Venus Vaughn's advice. Next one will be a candid shot. If there ever IS a next one.:o)

And BTW, Betina - you are gorgeous with or without photo shop.

Helen Brenna said...

Betina, I like your current photo too. And I agree with what most everyone has said about touch ups with moderation.

My experience with the photographer who took my last pub photos turned out okay, even though I was dreading it. They did the big screen thing with my daughter's hs pics, but for me, she just reviewed the pics on her computer. Just a couple minor touchups, mostly just to even out skin tone - like under my eyes, if I remember and remove 1 line. Pretty painless.

Can NOT believe what they did with Faith Hill's pic. I'd be ticked if I were here.

Three cheers for Jamie Lee Curtis for having her untouched pic in MORE magazine!!!

Candace said...

Betina, you proved my point. This is exactly what I was getting at in my comment on yesterday's post. Exactly! Only you said it so much better than I did.

Not only are we compared to women who are naturally beautiful, we are compared to un-naturally beautiful PhotoShopped versions of those same women. And the natural beauties are also compared to the un-naturally beautiful versions of themselves. That must be a very strange experience.

That said... I've had a couple of Glamour Shots taken in the past. Gorgeous pictures, but so not me. My latest--and, by far, most favorite--picture was recently taken by a friend who went back to school to become a professional photographer. I was one of the images in his final project. It's got really good lighting and camera angles, and I think he used a filtered lense -- but no Photoshop. It looks like me. No one would look at it and say incredulously "That's you?!" like they did with my Glamour Shots.

Debra Dixon said...

Oh, the horrors of photos!

We idealize ourselves until we can't anymore. For most of us that's right after we see the photograph.

I love Photoshop because I love playing with graphics. i did a Christmas card for a client and gave him demabrasion, liposuction, a little botox and then I made his soon-to-be daughter-in-laws incredibly big boobs (that were pointing off the family Christmas card) deflate to something reasonable that didn't draw the eye.

I love that I can do this. I wish I could do more.

But I also wish folks would stop over-photoshopping celebrities. Unattainable beauty is not good for society. Young girls have no idea that they can't look like what they see in the magazines.

I'm not happy about that.

GunDiva said...

I really need to learn to Photoshop! I'd look great if I could just grow into my weight. 'Course I'd have to be 6'2" to grow into my weight.

I do agree with minor touch-ups - evening out skin tone, taking away a pimple or two, but completely altering an appearance isn't so good.

flip said...

Some people photograph well (my eldest) and some of us don't photograph well (me!).

I read about a study which stated that other people see us as more attractive than we see ourselves. The reason is pictures and mirrors don't capture what really makes us attractive, our energy and personality.
Spent extra money on my second daughter's Senior photographs. They turned out beautiful and she will always these pictures to remind her how beautiful she really is. There was some touch up but she looked like herself. However, the magazine cover trend to make people perfect by changing their age, facial features and age is bad. It creates an unrealistic expectation for beauty.

Kathleen Eagle said...

We had some beautiful black and white portraits taken of our daughter instead of the traditional senior pictures. She was anti-traditional HS stuff, but we all treasure these pictures. As I remember, the photographer was a friend of a local (RWA) chapter member who offered to do promo pix. I wanted pictures of Elizabeth instead because the photographer did such artistic work. Elizabth insisted on doing her own makeup. The results are stunning.

I love taking pictures of the granddaughters. They're such naturals at that age.

Christie Ridgway said...

Betina: Love that photo of you.

Like Lois's daughter, I really dislike looking at myself in pictures. I hate sitting for them too. The casual ones on my website were taken by a friend, a semi-pro and he had to take a gazillion to find a couple where I wasn't stiff as a corpse.

It makes me mad that they doctored Katie C. I'm okay with the smoothing out of lines and such, but they made her shoulders look so skinny and her neck too thin.

catslady said...

I think we really want the fantasy. Most stars are nowhere as gorgeous as they are made out to be. I think the problem comes when it's young people who believe and think they could never measure up.

Kylie said...

I so hate having my picture taken that I make them use the same one at school year after year until I take another decent one, LOL. And the principal had the guy take a *poster size* pic of all the teachers to hang next to their doors. Mine is rolled up and stuffed in back of a cupboard. I *hate* having my picture taken!

And my new driver's license picture...sooooooo bad! She took it twice and one was worse than the other!

Betina Krahn said...

Hey, guys! I'm sorry, I'm so late coming back to the blog-- I was away from home most of the day. I managed to pop in to read, but didn't have time to respond! And what great comments-- they all deserve the personal response I probably don't have the space or energy to give them.

But Venus Vaughn, you started us off with a bang-- I love your advice and I'm gonna take it! Let some of the warts sho-- okay not the warts.. . but the wrinkles. . . especially the ones that come from laughing and smiling. I think they warm a face up and make a person look "lived in" and comfortable with herself.

Candace-- how good to see you here!

Thanks everybody for convincing me I don't need to spend money on another set of photos. . . yet! I'm stickin' with this one for a while longer. And did you not just LOVE that pic of Owen Wilson? I really adore the guy, but that photo was just too hysterical to pass up!

And a hearty AMEN to everybody who worries that we're setting false expectations that will harm out daughters-- and sons!

Personally, I love taking photos and surround myself with pics of my family whenever I can. Whether they're flattering or not. Because-- whoever said the energy and vitality are missing in photos is right. Beauty --like love--is best observed in action. And yes you can quote me on that!

OOOoooo as for celebrities, I saw Andy Williams in an airport one afternoon and my mother (fearless wonder) dragged me over to say hell. He was tiny! And his face was purply red and coarse-- he looked half lit. He had that "serious drinker's face."

I was disappointed. but not nearly as much as if I'd spotted a Beetle or Paul Newman and had the same reaction!

Betina Krahn said...

Hello. . . we said HELLO to Andy.


ForestJane said...

Would you ever consider NOT putting your photo on the book?

I read a lot - most of it large print, only because 'my' library has all the LP for the system. I can usually find a LP copy of a book available long before I can get a 7-day popular copy. And most of the LP books don't put the pic of the author on the back cover or inner flap. Honestly, I don't miss it. It's not vital for me to know what someone looks like, before I enjoy the story they have to tell.

I think it'd be more fun if authors put a photo of something important to them on the book. It'd be more personal:

"This is my dog, he keeps me sane."
"Here's my favorite quilt from my grandmother, I wrap up in it to write."
"This is the original can of tuna that inspired me to write Tuna Can Cowboy."

And so forth. :D

Betina Krahn said...

Great idea, ForestJane! Putting a photo of what's important to us on the jacket!

It's such a refreshing idea. . . publishers would never go for it. but hey, if I'm ever asked for a book jacket photo again-- I'll try that!