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It’s time to talk about Photoshop

Aden or Valencia? Shane Cullen examines the wider debate of living in a filtered photo world.

Instagram, Facetune, Visage. These are just some of the many apps available from the App Store that can be used to remaster your selfie collection. Using photo editing apps to alter or enhance photos has become an everyday practice, and just like brushing your hair, it’s almost becoming a subconscious activity. While the endless debate of which Instagram filter is the best to use continues, the sinister side of photoshop is still ever present, despite our knowledge on the harmful effects of body shaming. Perhaps it’s now the time to stop photoshop.


“…there is an obsession with a level of perfection that doesn’t exist.”

Back in February this year, pop singer Marina Diamandis shared her experience on Twitter about discovering that a designer had airbrushed her legs in a picture taken at an awards show. While Diamandis never shared the identity of the designer, some fans online speculated that it was a Greek designer she wore to the British Fashion Awards last December, but there was no further confirmation of this. Speaking in an interview with Channel 4 News later that month, Diamandis revealed that in the past she often had producers commenting on her body during studio sessions, admitting that she would laugh off the comments as a means of defence.

Diamandis hasn’t been the only celebrity to be targeted by unsolicited photoshop; actor and TV presenter, Jameela Jamil, discovered last month that she had been airbrushed in a photo that appeared online. Jamil, who is known for being an active campaigner against body shaming, posted the airbrushed photo on her Instagram, with various captions on the photo of what had been altered. Similar to Diamandis’ experience, Jamil’s legs were also made thinner and her skin was made lighter. As if those weren’t enough, Jamil also noticed that her ankles were airbrushed, proving that there is an obsession with a level of perfection that doesn’t exist.

In most cases where celebrities have been photoshopped, their bodies were altered without any consent or their prior knowledge. In addition to this, those who are usually photoshopped are women who are thin and photogenic. Making celebrities who are already thin to appear thinner is not only damaging for them, but also to teenagers and young women, where the feeling of being self-conscious about their body image is often at its peak. Back in 2015, when she was just 19 years old, Zendaya found an image of herself where her hips and torso had been airbrushed. This raises the question as to why do photographers and editors think they can alter and airbrush a celebrity’s photo, specifically a woman’s photo, without their consent? Perhaps they are under the illusion that anyone that is in the public eye is automatically public property.

Keeping up with the topic of photoshop being damaging to younger people, some famous faces are equally as much to blame. The Kardashian/Jenner clan are a special example of this, where they frequently post enhanced photos of themselves online. Of course, they are free to post them, but it’s the deception that comes with the posts that should not go amiss. Their frequently sponsored posts, such as Miss Skinny Fit Tea or appetite-suppressing lollipops with claims that they aid weight loss, have come under fire recently for being misleading. In a recent post of slimming tea endorsed by Kylie Jenner, Twitter users were quick to claim that she had airbrushed her own waist. While the sponsored beverage was meant to have many beneficial qualities, photoshopping a waist wasn’t a listed one.


“For many still, body positivity is celebrated in theory, but not in practice.”

Away from the photoshop apps and filters, the contradiction around body positivity is something that also needs to be addressed. Last year, plus size model Tess Holliday made headlines for being the first ever plus size model to grace the cover of Cosmopolitan UK, receiving both appraisal and backlash. The model who is also the creator of the #effyourbeautystandards campaign on Instagram, was heavily criticised and accused of “promoting obesity” for being a UK size 22. With the amount of backlash, and the sudden interest in a woman’s health for being plus size, resulted in the Cosmopolitan UK Editor Farrah Storr having to defend her decision to feature Holliday on the cover, adding that thinness has dominated magazine covers for so long.

2019 seems like a big year for Sam Smith so far, revealing in an interview recently that they are non-binary/genderqueer, furthering on with the statement that they do not identify as male or female. Speaking in an interview last month on Jameela Jamil’s I Weigh Interviews series, Smith opened up about their body image struggles, such as being bullied as a teenager for having breasts as a result of having extra oestrogen. Smith has been actively posting topless images embracing their body on Twitter and Instagram, but the responses have not always been as liberating, with some of the replies from users mocking their appearance. For many still, body positivity is celebrated in theory, but not in practice.