Beauty in eye of the computer

There was a time when manipulating photos was considered trickery aimed at deceiving a gullible and technically challenged public.

There was a time when manipulating photos was considered trickery aimed at deceiving a gullible and technically challenged public.

But now digital manipulation or "photoshopping" of images is booming. Magazines and online hobbyists are altering documents and pictures in a mission to sell their publications.

The phenomenon has even extended to movies and music videos. No wonder it's hard to recognise some TV stars in real life.

The BBC website,, reports that breasts are often made to look larger, waists smaller and legs are elongated on television to entice viewers.

Digital manipulation can lighten skin, remove wrinkles, change eye colour, darken make-up, re-size noses, erase stray hairs, make pimples disappear and increase overall brightness and sharpness.

Both local and international magazines are pulling out all the graphic design stops to add sex appeal and beauty to their subjects.

Front-page pictures of celebrities are digitally airbrushed to improve their looks in reality. Many subjects are not even aware that their looks have been tampered with.

Many celebrities' careers alone won't guarantee them fame. Without digital enhancement many would look like any tall, skinny youngster off the street.

Celebrities whose images have been photoshopped by magazines to enhance their beauty include kwaito artist Brickz, Babalwa Mneno, Tembi Seete and Chomee.

Chomee, whose current publicity pictures are perfect examples of digital enhancement, said she did not even notice that magazines had changed her looks, though her nose in the media looks nothing like the original.

"I've never noticed that they change my images. I'm not complaining though because I look ravishing in most magazines," she said.

But it doesn't take a dimwit to learn to live with what many have termed "digital intervention". It seems when it comes to looks, ethics fly out the window.

Oprah Winfrey, aka Miss Perfect, is a well- known queen of photoshopping whose image has been altered to death. But she has not dared to talk about the subject on her show.

Winfrey is happy to make an appearance without make-up, but will never utter a word about the so-called intervention of computers.

In her school of thought dwells Miss Breakthrough, Mary J Blige, who looks like she could be 20 on her latest MJB cover sleeve, but looks her age of 37 in real life. That by anyone's standard is manipulation regardless of what digital enhancement apologists might say.

Some do not like airbrushing. The practice does not sit comfortably with people like model and actress Kate Winslet. She reportedly went after GQ magazine for photoshopping her legs thinner. She was offended because "she loved her curves".

In an interview accompanying the photo shoot, Winslet questioned the attitude of women who equate sex appeal with being thin.

The editor admitted its cover photograph of Winslet had been airbrushed.

In a similar vein, Thokozani Ndaba, a South African gay activist, says photoshopping is bad for women's egos.

"Average readers are made to feel like they are not good enough because of these impossibly angelic and exaggerated looks that are featured in the media," he said.