David Bailey Joins Katie Grand, Peter Lindbergh in Reaction Against Airbrushing

>> Last year, there was a huge push for more diversity in fashion, culminating in the publication of Vogue Italia's all-black July 2008 issue.  Unfortunately, attention on that issue has waned this year, even though there is still much work to be done; now, the issue du jour seems to be what has become a common practice among fashion magazines: heavy retouching.

Katie Grand, who while at POP was a huge proponent of the "super glossy" look, has since reigned in her reliance on Photoshop.  Of her first issue of LOVE, which came out in February, Katie told Interview, "It's not so retouched.  I just wanted to take pictures of iconic people without redrawing them." And she's continuing the tradition for her second issue, out Sept. 1 — she had Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott (whose aesthetic generally lends itself to a good bit of retouching) photograph cover girl Coco Sumner as she walked in off the street, no hair or makeup.  The Times UK wrote of that decision: "She is shrewdly tapping into the new spirit of the times — heavily airbrushed celebrities seem gauche and embarrassing during a recession."

David Bailey: "It’s f*cking ridiculous" »

Peter Lindbergh captured eight models and actresses, including Eva Herzigova, without makeup or retouching for a set of French Elle covers back in April, prompting the New York Times to question whether the move was a glimpse of fashion magazines of the future or just another whim characteristic of the industry's short attention span.  Lindbergh told the Times he was tired of overly-Photoshopped fashion magazine subjects looking like "objects from Mars" and followed up his stance with a spread in the September 2009 issue of Harper's Bazaar, capturing eight supermodels without makeup or excessive retouching.

Now, another photographer heavyweight — David Bailey — has weighed in:

D’you know any model over the age of 23 has to be touched up these days. Twenty-three? It’s f*cking ridiculous but that’s what you have to do for American Vogue and it’s getting to be the same over here [in England]. They want shoots that look like a shop window in Knightsbridge. They always have the same kind of dead-looking girls. It isn’t interesting and the girls aren’t interesting. Because they aren’t girls. They’re androids. Airbrushed and cleaned up and not real.

So will all this chatter result in any longterm change in industry practice?  Dennis Freedman, creative director of W, told the New York Times in May that he wasn't counting on it, because fashion magazines function somewhat as an escape from reality. “I wonder how long that’s going to last. It raises an interesting point, but that in and of itself becomes a kind of gimmick. I would not bet my life savings that it is something they are going to continue.”

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