Photoshop_Fantasy Instagram Account Might Give You A Makeover...Without Your Permission
If you, like many women I've never met and probably never want to, wish to be photoshopped into a Barbie-doll standard of beauty and posted online, then look no further than the Instagram account of photoshop_fantasy. The account takes photos of women and digitally alters them into oblivion to create images that reflect some predetermined beauty ideal — sometimes without the person's permission.
Carrie Nelson of the Frisky posted the selfie above with no intention of being made into a caricature of herself, and what followed is a sad comment on standards of beauty and the limits of privacy in a digitized world.
It all began innocently enough. Nelson wrote that she had been struggling with anxiety and depression, and she posted a sleepy Sunday morning selfie to reflect her exhausted, sad, determined mood. Soon after, she noticed that photoshop_fantasy had started following her account, and when she went into their feed, she saw that her selfie had been used as a "before" picture for the photoshop Instagram account. They "fixed" Nelson's photo to make her into a plasticine, smiling, glassy eyed prototype, subverting everything that Nelson felt had made the photo special in the first place. She was left feeling objectified and taken advantage of.
It's a sad indication of what we seem to regard as beauty. The illegality of using other people's photos aside, the pictures photoshop_fantasy post are racially insensitive, remarkably formulaic, and most importantly, they just don't look like real women. As Nelson points out, "there is absolutely space for empowerment in selfies, but only when the pictures remain in the domain of their creators. Once they are appropriated, the true ugliness of conventional beauty standards shines through." One look at the changes made to these to pictures shows that a harmful ideal is at play here.
These enforce the idea that a woman who is bare-faced and natural is not enough. It makes me sick that whoever runs the account clearly operates on the view that beauty is a full face of makeup, round eyes, light skin, and a smile. And it makes me sad that any women who have willingly volunteered their images for photoshopping are insecure enough to look at a doctored photo of themselves and feel relieved at the result. Even writing those words is depressing. Is a head full of wonderful morning hair and eyes that have real emotions in them so terrible?
Yes, photoshopped pictures have long appeared in the pages of magazines and their idealized images have long inspired insecurity in those of us who observe them. But this image appropriation and abhorrent racial erasure comes one step closer to home, and the fact that Nelson's selfie was taken from her Instagram feed evokes a feeling of nebulous Big Brother-ness. If it could happen to Carrie Nelson, are we all eligible to be fixed without our permission? Are there strangers out there, looking at our selfies and thinking, "Wow, I could really make her look so much better if I took away some of her chin and threw some make-up on her"?
Photoshop_fantasy has since taken down the appropriated photos and apologized for their use. I suggest that we stage a selfie protest of these idealized images, taking photos for every moment we feel small, we feel happy, or we just like what our face and hair is doing at that particular moment. We can't let the small-minded steal the immense self-affirming power of the selfie from us, so take to your camera phones people, because selfies allow us to show others the way we want to represent ourselves, beauty ideals be damned.