Photography: "Distortion" By Emily Swan

Body image has never been an issue for me. As a kid, I was blissfully unaware of beauty standards, so I never understood what weight meant beyond its number. When I got older, I loved fashion magazines, but I knew the photos were fake. They didn’t fool me and they didn’t make me feel bad. The pictures were just pictures.

It wasn’t until the past couple of years that I really understood the huge impact media has on people’s views of themselves, but what really brought the issue home for me was when I started babysitting for new families, several of which have young girls. 

At age SIX they are worried about calories. 
At age SIX they think their tummies are too big.
At age SIX they say they need to swim a couple of laps before they have ice cream.

Their age isn’t even in the double digits and they already feel that their bodies are a problem, that they must be fixed, and they must be careful so they can be skinny.

So while these pictures are meant to be funny spoofs on magazine cover photos, they are critical as well. As an adult who works often with Photoshop, I can recognize when it has been used on a photo. I can recognize airbrushing, I can recognize where the Liquefy tool as been used to make noses skinnier, legs slimmer, butts bigger, necks longer. I can recognize where chunks of thighs have been cut out of pictures to create a desirable “gap.” But young kids and people unfamiliar with this technology probably can’t.

I laughed out loud while I was editing them because of how easy it was to make my face look like someone else’s. They’re so ridiculous, disproportional, and truly odd, that this project really was fun for me.

The main messages I want to convey are that you cannot compare yourself to magazine photos, because no matter how real they look, there are hours of putting on makeup, doing hair, arranging lights, changing clothes, and eventually masking and editing that go behind a final image. Magazines and advertisements play to insecurities so that you will keep buying their products and you will always be trying to look like the people in the pictures. But you can’t. The models don’t even look like their photos. We need to continue to be critical about the use of Photoshop to distort bodies and faces otherwise we continue to allow our children to face impossible beauty ideals that ultimately hurt them. 

Don’t let pictures fool you. Like the ones you see here, many images that saturate our media intake are meant to be unrealistic and intimidating. People come in many shapes, proportions, heights, and skin colors, but you wouldn’t know it just by picking up a magazine. 

Emily Swan is a social media intern for GirlSense & NonSense. Check out more of her work on our Instagram feed (@gsandns)!