Photoshop Action as Social Commentary?

Welcome to the Friday forum, my dekeOmmunity. Today’s post is brought to you by the Toronto wing of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty via Photoshop Diva Katrin Eismann. In a nutshell (which is an admittedly hard and tiny place to put such a complex issue), Ogilvy Toronto posted this video—“Thought before Action”—about a magical and socially conscious Photoshop action that reverted the model to her true unretouched self. Thus, retouchers are reminded in flagrante delicto that they are not honoring True Beauty.

(That is, if professional retouchers do all their work in one fell swoop without saving their file before applying an action downloaded from the internet.)

As the story goes, this action, presumably made available at sites like Reddit where art directors, graphic designers, and photo retouchers lurked—was called “Beautify” and falsely claimed to create a skin glow effect. The mindless unassuming users of the action would instead find their work reverted to the photo’s original state.

(Wait, Reddit? The place where my teenage son goes to look at animated GIFs of sloths playing banjos? The place where President Obama says anyone can ask him anything as long as they can do it in the next half hour? That’s where pros go for their retouching actions? Welcome to dekeOnline you poor hapless souls.)

Ok, there’s something poetic about using something called an action to attempt to incite—maybe not actual action, but at least social consciousness—about the way women are force-fed unreal idealization in advertisement. And yet, I must ask the following:

They mentioned in the caption that one could undo a Photoshop action (i.e. set the work back to where it was) via a simple Command-Z (Ctrl-Z) shortcut. So presumably, point made, but no work lost.

But is there a button to undo the heart attack endured by a diligently working photo retoucher who just saw all their work immediately disappear? Does the temporary nature of the action really mitigate the psychological manipulation perpetrated by an ad agency?

And before I can even consider that, I have to buy into the idea that retouchers use downloaded actions without skepticism. Unless, you know, the people that hired you told you it was what they wanted. In which case, this message would be totally unfair and bespeak a certain lack of ingenuous communication.

And before I even think about that, I wonder: why are they not taking comments on the YouTube movie? (I assume they are not because the movie has near-half million views with not a single comment, which of course is beyond the laws of social media probability on an issue as complex as this.) Is this real, or just a slickly crafted fable with catchy music?

Also, are you really staking out the high ground when your model is bending over in her underwear, retouched or not?

And, if it is real, should Deke create an action that reverts all naked models in petroleum-colored body paint to chihuahuas in pink tutus?

Ultimately, I like the Real Beauty campaign a great deal. But I’m not as sure about the Real Honesty behind this video, on more levels than one. What do my fellow dekeItarians think?

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  • Another Action Sought

    I’d be more in favor of an action that would revert Planet Earth (I’ll even settle for the United States only) to a state of sanity wherein people minded their own business and did not impose their vision of a Utopia (translation: “nowhere”) on me, along with the bill to pay for it. I’m ready to beta test that action anytime!


    “Thanks again, for another day full of something that I

    just can’t put my finger on.”—Kim Knoche

  • Obvious, Dumb and Smug

    This is obviously created by a smug well meaning person who pitched it to the Dove marketing team as a cool hip idea while remaining totally clueless about how a program like Photoshop works.

    It’s dumb but it will probably hit the mark for its intended audience since most people are also ignorant about how these “magical” programs work.

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