“Our desire to see these images pre-Photoshop is not about seeing what Dunham herself “really” looks like; we can see that every Sunday night or with a cursory Google search. … This is about Vogue, and what Vogue decides to do with a specific woman who has very publicly stated that she’s fine just the way she is, and the world needs to get on board with that. Just how resistant is Vogue to that idea? Unaltered images will tell.”
Jezebel threw down the gauntlet, and within hours, someone close to the magazine (or the shoot), ponied up the pictures. Photographer Annie Liebovitz is known for creating composite images, so it’s no surprise that in some cases, Dunham’s body was moved from one location to another, or a headshot from one photo was placed onto a body from another shot. Still, in general, there’s actually very little retouching on the photos, considering. Aside from standard color correction and slight cosmetic changes, what you see is pretty much what you get.
The idea of singling out Dunham’s photo shoot feels a bit petty to us—like an underhanded jab being made in the guise of “feminism.” If feminism is about empowering women and women’s choices, exposing a woman’s body and her physical flaws, taking away her agency and doing so without her consent, seems like the most unfeminist thing you could possibly do. In some circles, this is what’s known as “concern trolling,”—the idea that in exposing Vogue’s retouching Jezebel is somehow serving the greater feminist good.
But back to the photos: Dunham looks lovely, with and without the retouching. We all know that Vogue retouches images. They’re a fashion magazine, that’s what they’re in the business of doing—selling an image and creating a fantasy, and we’re fine with that. We’re pretty sure that Dunham knew that she was going to be retouched to some degree when she signed up to be photographed for the issue.
This isn’t the first time Jez has offered money for Photoshopped photos. In 2007 they offered a similar $10K for unreetouched photos of anyone. They ended up getting a cover shot of Faith Hill from Redbook.
When they did it in 2007, there was a point to be made, a discussion to be had, about how media alters images of even very conventionally attractive women to make them fit a mold. Now, seven years later, we absolutely know that. There are actually whole websites—like Photoshop Disasters—devoted to revealing how images are altered. So it’s unclear why Jezebel felt the need to single out Dunham, and her Vogue editorial.
Either way, we tend to agree with Dunham’s take on the whole mess. Here’s what she posted on Twitter yesterday:
Some shit is just too ridiculous to engage. Let’s use our energy wisely, 2014.
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) January 17, 2014