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Pressure to reveal Photoshop work in magazines

Wednesday 30 Nov 2011 7:06 p.m.

By David Farrier

Yes, we have our suspicions that Ryan Gosling has at least one wrinkle and that Kim Kardashian might not actually be as glossy as she often appears.

The days of beautiful bodies and flawless faces staring out from magazines may be numbered.

Legislators in the United Kingdom are putting pressure on editors to reveal what has been photoshopped and what is natural, and that has got magazine editors nervous.

Editor of New Zealand’s Pilot Magazine, Andy Pickering, says the idea is interesting but ultimately very impractical and quite unnecessary - “almost an intrusion”.

Enter Dr Hany Farid, Skyping from Dartmouth University.

“I think it's hard to ignore the body of literature that links body image issues and eating disorders to extreme photo retouching. You can't ignore that, hence the legislation in several countries.”

For the past two years he has been developing software that can detect how much photoshopping has been done, on a scale of one to five. 

Dr Farid says it is a practical system for magazines to use if legislation does come into place.

He has shared a few examples of what is at the higher end of his scale, including 30 percent body fat removal and lots of smooth skin, not to mention teeth.

“It’s clear women are altered much more than men, much more extreme than men. [There are] extreme modifications, complete removal of blemishes and wrinkles.

“Men are typically made to look younger and more muscled, but the retouching of women is really quite extreme.”

The pressure to reveal what has been photoshopped is coming from legislators across Europe.

Mr Pickering has worked on New Zealand magazines for more than 15 years and says many readers do not want their models altered.

“In terms of slimming down or reverse aging, it's really unnecessary and the consumer doesn’t expect that amount of Photoshop work to be done. We don't need it, we don't want it,” he says.

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