An Expert’s Analysis of Dove’s Campaign for “Real” Beauty

I asked re-toucher Kenneth Harris to take a look at several images. He saw what he thought was clear evidence of retouching on the ProAge shots. His thoughts on two of the Dove photos are below (Dove’s responses follow). It’s a pretty interesting deconstruction of the art of re-touching.


Harris says he immediately thought this shot had been airbrushed. He points to these features: Her skin tone: “The skin is one color without being gross. Look at her hands and the inside of her foot – they should be a lot darker [than the rest of her body], and they’re not. Unless this woman’s been living outside naked all day, there’s been work done.” Her right foot: “The inside of the heel is a classic area to wipe totally clean. How could the inside of her foot not be lumpy and have veins? Look at the inside of your own foot!”

Her shins: “A person naturally dents up the front of their shin. I can’t find a retouching mark, but it’s just off. Looking straight up her shins, both those shins are smooth.

Her butt: “Her camera-right butt I think would sag more. Transitioning from under the bikini area up someone’s leg, you’d just expect more to be happening, but it’s nice and vague and evenly textured. I suspect her butt has been warped. She’s 70 and there’s just no way.”

Her (lack of) veins: “I would say veins are taken out. You should see veins…and there’s nothing except on the inside of her camera-left thigh.” (Side note: I also hear from The New Yorker that Dangin told their reporter he removed veins. Dangin didn’t return calls from me seeking comment).

More after the jump.

The Underwear Ad

Harris said this shot seemed minimally altered. He noticed some basic color correction – the underwear appeared to be a uniform white, and shadows appeared to be evened out. But Harris thought the second woman from the right, Gina, looked odd. “I don’t know what the hell’s wrong with it, but someone got in there. It looks like her head’s been dropped on.”

I asked Dove to comment on these critiques. A spokesperson stated that no veins or wrinkles had been removed from “Wendy,” and “no 'smoothing' took place on her left shin or otherwise beyond color correction for consistency.” In the case of the underwear ad, Dove said, “we did not digitally alter the bodies of the women. This includes Gina's or any of the other women's heads.”

The statement then added

“We have made the commitment not to distort any of our images to create an unrealistic or unattainable view of beauty. As we have said, this does not mean we do absolutely nothing to the images to make them suitable for printing. There is always something that needs a bit of adjustment to meet professional standards - even in the best run photo shoot with the best photographers. Removing or correcting these things does not mean that people don't see the woman as she really is and does not change our commitment to real women.”
The New Yorker, meanwhile, says it’s standing by its account. What do you think?
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