Photoshop as Beauty Aid--Digital Art by Anna Hill

Image by Anna Hill
Photographer and digital artist Anna Hill lampoons the unrealistic beauty standards popularized by retouched photos in a series of mock ads that position Photoshop as a beauty aid.

The pieces each show a confident woman engaging the camera and showing off an artificial beauty made possible by Photoshop. "Shiny by Photoshop," one reads. "For that poreless, android look you'll never attain in real life." Others tout the magical limb-lengthening and eye-magnifying powers of this new beauty aid that--like the images it makes possible--is pure fantasy.

The satire is well done and spot on, but what I particularly like here is the way lines like the one quoted above highlight the twisted implication behind the ads Hill takes on. In ads as well as on magazine covers and internal photos, the beauty industry is not just selling an unrealistic ideal--it is selling an ideal that is patently unreal.

I wonder what impact this has on both genders and what it says about our culture as a whole that we are being taught to crave a beauty that isn't reflected in a human ideal, but rather in an inhuman, artificial ideal. Hill's use of the word "android" is key here, because there's actually a flesh-less desexualized aspect to all of this that may have a lot to say about our culture's true attitude toward humanity.

I appreciate the feminist take on all this, and I see it, but I also see something along the lines of an emerging anti-humanist strain at work. As if we are almost being prepared to accept and love our android overlords--or caretakers--we are increasingly fetishizing the artificial. At first, it was a matter of using artificial means to approximate or exaggerate a natural ideal, but now we're edging toward abandoning any reverence for the natural and giving over to idealizing the synthetic.

Women's bodies, like cultural canaries, are at the forefront of this movement. I can see that this is partly what I've been getting at in some of my fiction of the last few years and my fixation on supernatural phenomenon surrounding women's bodies (see "When My Girlfriend Lost the Weight," "She Falls Down," "Keeping Susie Whole" and "Whatever God Blesses Us With"). But I don't think it ends there.

I think our shifting values in this regard, our movement toward artificiality may have a lot to tell us about our future. After all, is it just a coincidence that this shift is happening at a time when wearable computing, unmanned drones, and advanced robotics are already a reality and the singularity may be just around the corner?

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