About Me

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Sydney, NSW, Australia
I'm an arts management worker/ artist/ designer. I work at Accessible Arts in administration and bookkeeping, but also work on various freelance activities from photography to graphic design. I'm Associate Partner at the ARI, the Big Fag Press, board member of Runway Australian Experimental Art and occasionally work at Bailey and Yang Consultants. My creative work has often been driven by social issues and commentary. This blog started as a way of documenting research for my honours year at uni, which I have continued, in order to gather inspiration for future artistic practice.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Body Image Magazine Covers

I just thought I'd document here a few case studies I'm looking at in my dissertation.

Recently the Royal College of Psychiatrists in the UK has called for laws to be introduced that forces magazines and newspapers to mark advertising images that have been airbrushed, thereby protecting the vulnerable who may not understand the impossibility of aspiring to a digitally enhanced physical perfection.

It's a bit of a catch-22 really, because advertising in itself is about projecting a dream in order to sell its merchandise. Again we come up against the devil consumerism - what is the value of a person's self esteem?

There have been a few interesting magazine covers in the last few years to tackle this issue.

Jennifer Hawkins bares all on the cover of Marie Claire 2010
Image Reference: Marie Claire

Jennifer Hawkins’ cover shoot was done to support the Butterfly Foundation, a charity which provides support to Australians with Eating Disorders and negative body image. I really wonder whether the foundation really thought this one through. Jennifer Hawkins is Miss Universe! I mean, next to her, even naked and unairbrushed, who isn't going to feel inadequate? I can maybe see a few uneven skin tones, that's about it. I don't even really see why she needs airbrushing. It uses beautiful lighting, and she still has on make up and either a really good fake tan, or a genuine one. I know the article inside went into huge detail about how hard she works to look that good. But that is her job to do that. I certainly don't have the time or money to look that good, so how am I supposed to feel comforted by this image? I don't really get it.

Sarah Murdoch, untouched on the cover of Women’s Weekly 2009
Image Reference: The Age

This particular one was done to show that there can be beauty in ageing (I believe one of my previously mentioned mentors Mia Freedman was actually part it). We can discern a few of Sarah Murdoch’s wrinkles, but she is still extremely beautiful, and even Helen McCabe the editor said, “The one point I have to make is that this is possibly one of, if not the most beautiful woman in Australia that I've done this to, so the risk is not that high”. That kind of annoys me, I mean, maybe we should be taking risks!

Both these magazine covers have caused quite a bit of debate and personally, I can see how they could kind of be interpreted as patronising to hear these women feel good about who they are. I mean, why shouldn't they? Who wouldn't want to look like that?

But, at the very least, these initiatives do raise critical thinking about the fanstasy created by airbrushing, and raise awareness for companies like the Butterfly Foundation, as well as hopefully making the odd middle aged woman feel okay about a few wrinkles around her eyes. Ageing is a process that happens to everyone, and it seems to me, that putting all your energy into fighting it makes you look a little less classy than someone who embraces their age and does it gracefully.

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