Nontroversy: Lena Dunham’s Vogue Photo Retouching


Screen Shot 2014-01-17 at 11.05.20 PMBy now you’ve heard the controversy about Lena Dunham’s Vogue photo shoot retouching. Jezebel offered Annie Leibovitz $10,000 for a unretouched photos of Lena Dunham’s shoot. It was a remake of the 2007 stunt that put the site on the map when founding editor Anna Holmes offered the same cash reward for the original version of any women’s-magazine cover image from the past two years, a bounty hunt that yielded a Faith Hill Redbook cover in which the singer still had bags under her eyes. People outside the business love this stuff but honestly, it’s standard procedure for nearly every photographer working today. In the past, not everyone retouched their pictures so much because it was time consuming and costly (you had to make prints and then send them to be physically airbrushed) but within the last 20 years everything is totally digital now and it’s a snap to correct anything. With Faith Hill, it took two months for Jezebel to make the big reveal; this time they said they got the pictures within two hours. As with the Redbook cover, the differences they revealed were just minor tweaks — filled-out eyebrows, a shaded jawline, a digital haircut on the cover. Inside, Dunham’s cleavage was covered up, a leg was lengthened, and — the big reveal — she was shown not wearing that pigeon on her head. (Vogue just shot back with this Instagram, of Dunham wearing the pigeon hat, so that myth was debunked in short order…) writer Jessica Coen acknowledged the anti-climax: “While Dunham has not been radically Photoshopped, it’s clearer than ever what kind of woman Vogue finds Vogue-worthy: The taller, longer-limbed, svelter version of reality.”

Here’s Dunham’s take on the whole thing:
“A fashion magazine is like a beautiful fantasy. Vogue isn’t the place that we go to look at realistic women, Vogue is the place that we go to look at beautiful clothes and fancy places and escapism and so I feel like if the story reflects me and I happen to be wearing a beautiful Prada dress and surrounded by beautiful men and dogs, what’s the problem? If they want to see what I really look like go watch the show that I make every single week.”

Thank you. There is no “promise” to the public that what you are looking at is “real”. How naive is the general populace? Pretty naive, if they get up in arms about retouching fashion photos. To me, the more troubling sign is that we are talking about someone who is not a model nor model-sized. NOTE: Dunham’s reaction on Jezebel; “I know that I felt really like Vogue supported me and wanted to put a depiction of me on the cover. I never felt bullied into anything; I felt really happy because they dressed me and styled me in a way that really reflects who I am. And I felt that was very lucky and that all the editors understood my persona, my creativity and who I am. I haven’t been keeping track of all the reactions, but I know some people have been very angry about the cover and that confuses me a little. I don’t understand why, photoshop or no, having a woman who is different than the typical Vogue cover girl, could be a bad thing.” Click here to see the photos and all of the retouching and feel free to weigh in, so to speak. (Photos, Annie Leibovitz, via Jezebel)