17 August 2008

Photoshop ~ Another Tool of Self-Deception

"FOUR’S A CROWD After her divorce, Laura Horn,
second from right, decided to have her ex-husband
(guess who?) removed from the picture with Photoshop."

Self-deception is a powerful impulse. We're all tempted at times to construct narratives in which our motives and actions are uniformly admirable and where the 'black' in our black and white vision rests with others. Conversely, we too often seek to construct narratives of our lives in which our relations with others - friends, relatives, co-workers - are so sanitized as to be unrecognizable. This story in The New York Times about people Photoshopping their lives and relations makes my skin crawl. It makes me want to shout 'Be an adult!' ~ recognize that relationships consist in multiple people each of whom is responsible for successes and complicit in failures. Perhaps the measures are unequal, perhaps even markedly so, but rarely are tales of uncontaminated heroism or victim-hood even close to reality.

The people described in this story are using photographs to sanitize their lives and, in the process, apportion blame and responsibility. They seem to me to be like those I know who dump therapist after therapist because the latter tell them things they don't want to hear. They remind me of other people I know who toss down anti-depressants without even consulting a psychologist. They remind me of whole families I know where individual members respond to hurt and stress and conflict by running away, literally. All these folks are evading responsibility, or trying to. The problem is that responsibility and its consequences tend to lurk around corners waiting to pop out uninvited, often in the form of other family members (say, kids) who ask inconvenient questions and expect honest answers.

Looking at pictures is like looking in the mirror. If you cannot look at the actual pictures and even try to remember the good parts or recognize your own role in whatever unpleasantness was transpiring, maybe that's a signal that you need to face reality instead of erasing it.

End of rant, for now.



Blogger Tom White said...

I found the final paragraphs the most insightful of the article,

'Alan D. Entin, a clinical psychologist in Richmond, Va., uses patients’ family photographs as raw material to inspire discussion and analysis of their roles and relationships within their family.

“They’re a record,” he said. “They have existed over time and space. They are important documents.”

To alter them is to invite self-deception, he said. “The value to accepting a photograph of yourself as you are is that you’re accepting the reality of who you are, and how you look, and accepting yourself that way, warts and all. I think the pictures you hate say as much about you as pictures you love.”'

Exactly. The visual culture we live in pushes people to conform to a vision of beauty that simply does not exist, even in the people who are naturally close to that vision in reality. To foster self deception is a dangerous trend and one which does not bode well for us as a society.

19 August, 2008 11:24  

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