On Sunday, writer Carrie Nelson posted a photo of herself sans makeup, on Instagram. As she wrote in an essay on The Frisky, Nelson has been battling depression and anxiety, and wanted to honestly capture some of what she’d been feeling in an image. “I took a photo of myself in bed, still disheveled from a restless night of sleep. More than anything, I was curious to know what I looked like in that particular moment.” She snapped the photo and put it up on her Instagram, with the intention of capturing her feelings and sharing them with her personal community.
She’d noticed that an account called Photoshop_fantasy had begun following her, but assumed that they’d found her through some of her hashtags and didn’t think much of it. Hours later, she went back through her Instagram feed, and discovered that her new follower had given her selfie an unsolicited and unwanted makeover. Photoshop_fantasy had taken her photo, added some blush, pink lipstick and mascara, and redone Carrie’s face. Her skin was smoothed over, and the corners of her mouth upturned.
“It’s not a bad look for someone,” wrote Carrie. “But that someone doesn’t look like me.”
Oh, but that wasn’t all. As Carrie delved deeper into Photoshop_fantasy’s work, she was stunned by what she saw. There were others who’d been similarly ‘shopped into oblivion — and then some. Beyond just cleaning up blemishes and adding makeup to makeup-free skin, the account had also gone as far as to lighten the skin of some Instagram users, and effectively alter the outward ethnicity of others.
In both cases, the women in the pics have had their facial features changed to the point where they’re almost unrecognizable from their original identities. It’s unclear whether these women volunteered their photos for the Photoshop treatment or whether, like Carrie, their pics were taken without their permission.
The Internet is largely the Wild West when it comes to photo usage, but that doesn’t mean that Photoshop_fantasy’s “makeovers” should be tolerated. Carrie has asked that her photo be taken off of Photoshop_fantasy’s Instagram, but the account has yet to comply. In the meantime, she’s urged others to think about what it means when images like these are re-appropriated, whitewashed and taken out of context. “There is absolutely space for empowerment in selfies, but only when the pictures remain in the domain of their creator,” she wrote. “Once they are appropriated, the true ugliness of conventional beauty standards shines through.”
Do we think that whoever’s behind Photoshop_fantasy made these edits to intentionally wash away these girls’ ethnicities? Not necessarily. But we do think that it’s yet another example of how dominant media images have influenced our ideas of what it means to be beautiful. These women have been effectively stripped of who they are in the aim of making them more “beautiful” — and there’s nothing pretty about that. We reached out to Photoshop_fantasy for comment, and we’ll let you know if we hear from them.
What do you think of the “makeovers”?