Can we live without the magic airbrush?

Debenhams has taken the brave step of launching a marketing campaign using photographs that aren't digitally enhanced

The game is up. It was bound to happen: a backlash against airbrushing and photo makeovers has seen a growing number of celebrities – from Madonna to Jessica Simpson and Britney Spears – exposed
au naturel in recent publicity pictures.

Now the high street is following suit, picking up the trend for pictures without digital trickery. Debenhams launched a new swimwear range last week, using a photograph of a bikini-clad model that has not been airbrushed or digitally enhanced, along with an example of how the picture could have been altered. It's a smart marketing effort and a test of whether we're ready to see "real" pictures. The caption was pithy: "We've not messed with natural beauty; this image is unairbrushed. What do you think?" So, what would have been different? Well, quite a lot. Slimmed and toned arms, thighs and waist, perfect hair and spotless skin. Oh, and a bigger bust. Indeed, pretty much all of the digital tricks that have prompted calls for an end to manipulated pictures: such images put pressure on women, and particularly teenage girls, to try to achieve a look that isn't possible outside the digital world.

The "before and after" shots, to be rolled out to stores around the country in the next few weeks, will increase pressure on other retailers to reconsider whether they use enhanced images in future.

Jo Swinson, a Liberal Democrat MP and co-founder of the Campaign for Body Confidence, said: "More and more people are realising that airbrushing and other trickery are not necessary in order for women to look beautiful."

Indeed. But here I have to declare a personal interest. You see, I have been the beneficiary of a little digital nip/tuck.

What harm could it do, I thought, dismissing my corpse-like pallor and greying temples as tricks of the light. I even told myself that my growing beer gut was down to a dodgy camera angle.

Everyone gets the odd bit of help from technology, I told myself as I picked up the phone and threw myself on the mercy of award-winning photographer James Facey, a master of the dubious art of digital manipulation. A big mistake. The amazing portrait picture I now have bears almost no resemblance to me – not that my long-suffering wife would complain.

A chuckling Mr Facey tried to put my mind at rest, explaining how with a few clicks of his mouse he had made me slimmer, removed (nearly) all my "skin flaws" and whitened my teeth and eyes. "I have flattened your tummy, made your eyes slightly bigger and more open. I also straightened your teeth and made your visible ear smaller. Not to mention the removal of all your white hair, including neatening any stray hair on top of your head, neck and chest."

I'm not alone in needing a little help; just check the covers of the vast majority of magazines. So, a brave experiment by Debenhams. But I suspect, for a while at least, the camera will continue to lie.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

Account Manager, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

Content Manager - Central London

£35000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Content Manager - Central...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz