As the movement to portray models without excessive retouching (here, here) continues to gain momentum, magazines are faced with the same quandry: To Photoshop or not? When you’re dealing with a supermodel like Christy Turlington, the issue is arguably more difficult. Turlington rose to fame in the late 80s with her work with Calvin Klein and became a part of the “Trinity” in the 90s along with Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista.
Despite her work as an entrepreneur and activist, Turlington is still known to most people as a model. But she is also 49 years old, and the way magazines (and her PR people) choose to portray her likeness says a lot about the age we live in. Let’s take a look at two covers from the past year.
Norman Jean Roy image of Turlington was used for a number of editions of Bazaar magazine. The light source looks rectangular – perhaps a large softbox – positioned at a fairly steep angle off the camera axis. The light position has a nice sculpting effect to Turlington’s face and torso. The image is not over-retouched, and we can see faint crows feet around her eyes and smile lines around her mouth. But the even skin tone on Turlington’s face, shoulders and chest suggest more than just a good make-up stylist.
Contrast Roy’s image to the cover of Zeit magazine shot by Pamela Hanson. Although Roy’s image is by no means “high key” it certainly accentuates brighter tones. Hanson’s image, by contrast, is all about shadow. The Rembrandt-style lighting provides dimensionality, but I’m much more interested in the natural appearance of skin tone. There’s obviously less make-up, but the retouching is also done to not obliterate skin imperfections – arguably, the shadow detail is bumped up in contrast to show age and sun damage.
Because of the imperfection, it’s a startling image of a still beautiful woman.
Verdict: Roy’s image feels very conventional compared to Hanson’s. Of course, the intent of each cover is different, but even in isolation, I find Hanson’s image to be more compelling for what it says about our portrayal of age and beauty in 2018.