1. Jezebel, Vogue, and retouching

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    Recently there was a lot of chat around Jezebel magazine’s so-called expose of Lena Dunham’s unphotoshopped images from her recent shoot for Vogue 

    Jezebel obtained the untouched original photos for $10,000 – possibly from some disgruntled Vogue staffer – after it placed an ad. Jezebel has used this kind of cheap trick before. It then detailed how Dunham’s pictures were digitally altered. 

    “This is about Vogue,” said the article in Jezebel, “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.” 

    However, it became immediately clear that most of the photo changes were minor. Lena Dunham was still unalterably Lena Dunham flaws and all. 

    “Lena is a strong, confident woman who charts her own path—and that, to my mind, makes her an inspiring role model and the perfect cover for our February issue,” said Vogue editor Anna Wintour in a statement to Good Morning America. 

    “Lena has been acclaimed in so many ways, rightly being described as the voice of her generation. But the quality I admire most about her is that she is fearless; fearless in how she works, in her choices, and, of course, about fashion.”

    I worked as an editor helping to launch Russian edition of Vogue and while it is a very different magazine than American Vogue one thing I can tell you about magazines like the Vogue that idea that models and images are photoshopped to death is ridiculous – at least to my knowledge – and insulting to editors, photographers, models, and art directors, who are all experts at their craft.


    Photoshopping is used to tweak images.  Sometimes to make them “come alive” other times to remove a small distracting flaw or two. It does not serve to create a “goddess-like image”. Magazine images are meant to be dramatic and to tell a story. The tweaks to Dunham’s image were so small Jezebel was doing nothing more than trying to draw attention to it by attacking an important magazine. Dunham has said she has no issues the photos and “felt supported by Vogue” during the shoot.  

    In addition, many of Jezebel’s assumptions about the photos have been proven to be untrue. Jezebel argued the image of Dunham with a bird on her head was a fake. But Vogue provided its own unretouched photo, showing the people who staged the scene actually putting the pigeon atop the Girls’ star’s head.  

    It was Vogue’s touché moment. 

    Ordinary people, both men and women, have been altering their own photos on Facebook and Instagram as much or more than Dunham’s were altered by Vogue for years.  Static images, especially photos snapped by amateurs, often don’t capture a person’s true likeness. I think it is these types of images that often lead to the bad self-images many women have. A little knowledge about how to take a good picture that actually looks like you makes most women feel much more secure and happy about their appearance.