Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Retouching, air-brushing and Bollywood posters

Liberal Vision has a lengthy critique of Jo Swinson's move to ban manipulation of advertising images and cinema publicity shots to enhance the attributes of female stars. This has also intrigued the press, if yesterday's Independent was anything to go by. (Note that we are all careful not to describe the process as "photoshopping", because PhotoShop is a registered trade name.)

Before computer manipulation, there was the literal airbrush, which was in turn an improvement on the retoucher's pencil. That this could give deceptive results in the hands of a master is shown by the famous photograph of Lenin haranguing a meeting with Trotsky by his side. After Stalin seized power, Trotsky mysteriously vanished from official versions of the photograph.

Making movie stars look better than they are is also not new. There are the marvellously overblown Asian and Middle Eastern posters advertising their dubbed or subtitled versions of Hollywood movies, or, in the case of India, local product. Men, as well as women, could suffer from a sense of inferiority if we took these depictions seriously.

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