Visual Translation

How much reality do images reflect?

I’m sure it is not the first time you have heard about photoshopped images in magazines and billboards. Quite frankly, you’ve probably had enough of the conversation and, since you can’t change what the media do, you see no point in us dwelling on it. I get it, there is very little we can do to change the industry, after all, they are simply doing their job, which is to sell products. What we can do is minimize the negative impact by becoming aware and changing our perception. Here is one thing that might be helpful to understand:

Images used in advertising are representations of things that exist, as expressed by a photographer or a brand, and should not be taken as 100% accurate. When we see a drawing or painting of a tree, we know it is not the real thing. We understand the artist is expressing what he/she sees, although it may look ‘similar’ to what exists.

Here is a tree painted by Monet. It closely resembles what trees look like in nature, but we know that not all trees look like these. How absurd would it be to expect all trees to look like this one? Also, many artists paint apple trees, but how absurd would it be to think that apple trees are the only kind of tree with value?

Ok I hear you, ‘paintings and photos are not the same thing’. Well, here is a photo of a tree by Polish surrealist photographer Dariusz Klimczak, titled ‘Dandruff Tree’ (see more of his stuff here ). Sure, it’s an amazing photo, but should we all aspire for our trees to look like this one? Should we begin to chop off branches in our backyards and add giant combs? Again, absurd.

“Wait a minute, this photo has been manipulated, trees don’t look like this in real life”. Yep, my point exactly! In media and advertising, images are simply a representation by a photographer or brand. They do not reflect the variety of unique individuals that exist and they should not be used as a guide to judge people or a set standard to aspire to, for they are very difficult to imitate.

I snapped the photo of a poster at a store. This particular photographer has chosen to represent women’s legs with no knees. How do we go about deleting our knees?


Photo by Pete Bellis on Unsplash