Vogue's Supermodels Cover, Retouching, and Fashion's AI Future
A question that seems more pressing than “how much were these women retouched?” is where exactly all this image manipulation is heading.
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American and British Vogue’s dual September supermodels cover was widely regarded as disappointing, with many critics blaming the magazines for overzealous retouching. Some wondered if Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, and Linda Evangelista were photographed independently and photoshopped together. Others, including former British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman, simply felt the women did not look as they really do. She wrote in her Daily Mail column:
[W]hy on earth did they have to be turned into a plasticised version of themselves, dressed in gloomy black widow outfits and run through computer retouching to emerge as a cartoon version of what a glamorous older woman might be?
It's especially weird considering that Vogue has recently positioned itself around the idea of inclusivity, rejecting the notion that conventional definitions of beauty are relevant to the cover choices.
Though retouching has for decades been standard practice for advertising and editorial images — certainly for every fashion magazine cover — every so often it becomes a big topic of discussion online. (The exception, of course, is when magazines make great hay out of publishing an “unretouched” cover, but that was more of a trend that came and went the previous decade, for better or worse.)
Yet, a lot of factors probably contributed to the covers’ middling reception.
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