Written by Maggie Schoepke. Media by Sara Dawson.
Digital manipulation has the power to shape imagination. From extreme photo retouching to computer-generated images, editing software has enhanced our ability to enhance ourselves. Makeup, hair color, and body sliming are all improvements technology has allowed humanity to make. Photoshop and programs of the like have also granted us access to further our views of the surrounding world. Thanks to this advancement, surrealistic images and fantasy graphics are more widespread. Basically, whatever society dreams, it can create.
Though digital manipulation may grant authority for reinvention, individuals are beginning to question the morality of such a process. When does cutting, pasting, placing, and shaping become too much? How far is too far when altering reality? These are just a few of many good questions concerning digital manipulation. However, before we look at what we should not do with the medium, perhaps we should examine what we can do with it first.
From an artistic standpoint, digital manipulation offers a lot of opportunities that were otherwise unavailable. For instance, software such as CGI has allowed humans the chance to transform themselves into a number of imaginary beings. While we are still a long shot from total realism, this technology goes far beyond what makeup could ever accomplish. With it, the power to tell stories has improved drastically. Images have become more impactful, and scenes more moving. Simply put, stronger visuals lead to stronger messages. As a result, audiences naturally become more receptive.
It is easy to see now how digital manipulation can be a great tool for anyone looking to make a difference. As I have learned though, it is not just a tool which can be used to enhance something that already exists, but one which can aid in the creation process as well. A good example of this is Photoshop. It is an editing software which allows for the combination of two seemingly disparate objects into one image.
From personal experience with the program, I can vouch for how enjoyable it is to challenge people’s perspective of the world around. In my own time, I have dabbled a bit with fantasy photography and the juxtaposition of images. There is a certain thrill that comes from tapping into people’s imagination in this way, but ultimately I think it is what the art does for the viewer that truly counts. Conceptual and surrealistic photography have the potential to make one’s life more exciting, and if anything, more meaningful.
Take the picture on the left as an example. I was able to place my sister in a new context and therefore alter what her environment says about her. Once-harmless woods are now a dangerous and threatening dystopia, and what was once an innocent experience now appears grimmer than ever before.
It is clear that there is danger in such power. If we can control the way people view things, we can also control their interactions (to some extent). In this way, digital manipulation has lead cause to negative issues such as body shaming and false advertising. Both of which have done nothing but stir up strife and inner confusion.
If you are like most and conflicted about the morality of digital manipulation, I would encourage you to step back and take a good look at all the factors. Humanity has been graced with much, but there are definitely limits to what this process can and should do. Ask yourselves the reasoning behind each edit. Is reality being altered in a way that promotes positivity and enhances understanding? Or a are visuals being promoted that society cannot and never will measure up to?