Beauty magazines frequently contain representations of women with flawless skin and ‘perfect’ bodies. What we see and read in the media is not ‘reality’. These are not ‘real’ women. These are images of real women which have gone through a long process of construction, making them appear particularly beautiful and glamourous.
Browse through a beauty magazine and answer the following questions:
- Describe each of the cover models, noting their appearance, including skin, eyes, hair and facial expressions.
- What do the cover models have in common?
- Write down fifteen different headings from the various magazine covers.
- As a representation, what does this say about the interests and preoccupations of women?
- Overall, how are women represented on the covers of these magazines?
BEFORE THE SHOOT
The process of constructing these photographs starts long before the photographer picks up the camera. Before the photoshoot, a professional make-up artist is used to make the subject look glamorous. In a fashion shoot for the beauty magazine Allure, for example, Isla Fisher went through an intensive make-up process which involved bronzing cream, bronzing powder, rosy blush, ivory and chocolate eye shadow, eye liner, lipstick and a nude lip pencil. Before she even stepped in front of the camera, she had been bronzed and blushed to perfection! Next, a professional hair stylist went to work on her hair. According to the magazine: “After he cut a half-inch off her hair and added long layers, he spritzed Fisher’s hair with a lightweight leave-in conditioner and volumizing spray, then blew it dry with a paddle brush. Next, he made “lazy, open curls” throughout her hair with a medium-barrel curling iron and brushed through them before misting with hair spray.”
DURING THE SHOOT
During a fahsion shoot, the photographer can do a number of things to make the model look more beautiful and glamorous. This can include selecting an appropriate lens to make the model look good and carefully setting up lighting including lamps, softboxes, reflector boards and flashes. During a photoshoot, each shot is considered carefully. The photographer will decide on the best lighting, camera angle, shot size, composition, colour and facial expression. The photographer may take hundreds of photographs. Only one of these – known as a ‘hero’ shot – will be selected for the magazine cover. By this stage, even a simple photograph has gone through many stages of selection and construction.
AFTER THE SHOOT
After the shoot has been completed and a photograph is selected for the magazine cover, designers get to work on perfecting. Although magazine publishers have been retouching photographs for decades, the development of tools like Adobe Photoshop means that the process of retouching photographs is more sophisticated than ever. The process of photoshopping photographs is wonderfully parodied by this advertisement for Fotoshop by Adobé. Similarly, this video by Diet.com reveals how extensive the use of Photoshop is in the magazine industry.
An advertising campaign by Dove titled ‘Evolution’ gives us an insight into the process of constructing that photographs in beauty magazines go through. The campaign was created by advertising agency Ogilvy and Mather. The seventy five second ad is a time lapse sequence which shows an ordinary woman being transformed into a supermodel using the techniques and proceedures often employed by beauty magazines. The advertisement received a great deal of acclaim and won numerous awards, including the Cannes Lion Grand Prix award, making one of the most prestigious advertisements in the world. Dove also produced an advertising campaign called ‘Onslaught‘ which shows the type of images that girls are bombarded by in the media. Both of these advertising campaigns have been parodied on YouTube. In ‘Slob Evolution‘ someone tried reversing the process of airbrushing magazine covers. In a parody of the commercial ‘Onslaught’, Rye Clifton mashed up the commercial using Unilever advertisements to point out the hypocrisy of Dove’s advertising campaign.
VOLUNTARY INDUSTRY CODE OF CONDUCT
In 2009, the Australian government developed the Voluntary Industry Code of Conduct which provides a series of guidelines on the representation of body image in the media. According to the code, it ” encourages more diversity in the selection of models, a wider range of clothing sizes in retail fashion, the use of realistic and natural images of people, and disclosure when images have been digitally manipulated.”Voluntary Industry Code
The code features seven points for the portrayal of body image.
- Positive content and messaging.Use positive content and messaging to support the development of a positive body image and realistic and healthy physical goals and aspirations among consumers.
- Diversity. Use a diverse range of people that are appropriate to their target audience. When considering diversity, particular focus should be given to including a range of body shapes, sizes and ethnicities.
- Fair placement. Use advertising that supports positive and healthy body image behaviour. Advertising that contradicts positive body image messages will not be used.
- Realistic and natural images of people. Do not use digital technology in a way that alters images of people so that their body shape and features are unrealistic or unattainable through healthy practices. Make consumers aware of the extent to which images of people have been manipulated.
- Healthy weight models. Use models that are clearly of a healthy weight.
- Appropriate modelling age. Only use people aged 16 years or older to model adult clothes or to work or model in fashion shows targeting an adult audience.
- Fashion retailers supporting positive body image. Stock a wide variety of sizes that reflects demand from customers.
In July 2011, an advertising campaign featuring Julia Roberts was banned by the British Advertising Standards Authority because its use of airbrushing falsely represented the product it was advertising and misled consumers. They also banned an advertisement for Maybelline featuring supermodel Christy Turlington on similar grounds.