On a recent photoshoot, I met a 25 year old who was there to help out with hair and makeup. She was beautiful and shiny and sweet, and so I tried really hard not to show my shock when she mentioned she had recently had her first botox injection. I had never seen her before to know if it was needed, and she sure felt great about herself that day, which is always a good thing. Taken in isolation, I’m not sure if there was a problem.
But then I logged into social media, something I’m sure Gandhi would now add to his list as one of the roots of all social ills in this world, and one post after another appeared on my feed from friends who had clearly “de-noised” their photos so their 40 year old faces looked youthful and shiny, without a single fine line or wrinkle. It’s as if being who we are and looking the way we do is not good enough anymore.
That same weekend, two girlfriends saw snapshots I had taken of them — beautiful women with the brightest spirits — and they both had visceral reactions to how “old” or “fat” they looked (neither looked old or fat, by the way).
Friends have suggested I use Photoshop to adjust images, to remove any signs of life (sunspots, blemishes, fine lines), because somehow through the magic of botox injections, Photoshop and even face transforming snapchat filters we as a society have collectively decided that documentation of the aging process will not be a part of our narrative. The ethos we choose to project is one that is as featureless and unrefined as an overexposed image in a skin care ad.
One hundred years ago, psychologist Carl Jung talked about individuation, a process that takes place as one successfully emerges from the necessary shifts of midlife crises, defining it as “the process of becoming your true self.” But in the midst of life in 2017, are we allowing our unreasonable expectation and inevitable disappointment in our appearance to delay or possibly prevent us from becoming our true selves?
The photo below is of a loved one in rural Thailand. What a different photo this would have been had she asked me to use Photoshop to soften her face, to fade away her sun spots, to erase her beautiful face full of wrinkles. As a photographer, I refuse to contribute to the narrative, and in fact, may begin to explore HDR and black and white photography, just so those fine lines set in even more. Because as my friend Bill Galbreath said when reading the initial draft of this post, “Beauty comes in all different ways, but always from within.”