It’s not a secret that “photoshopping” existed way before Photoshop. Photos were edited in the darkroom, and masters like Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange manipulated their photos that are iconic today. But did you know just how far it went?
Have you ever wondered why people in the 19th-century photos all had flawless skin, thin waist, or posture that seems a bit off? Well, it turns out they also had their photos edited to match the beauty standards, just like people on social media do today. In this super-fun video, Bernadette Banner tells you more about it and explores the history of the Victorian era’s “Facetune.”
Digging through the archives, Bernadette found photography books that gave precise instructions on photo editing – how to remove freckles, blemishes, and wrinkles from the skin; and reshape the neck, bust areas, and waist. Of course, it was all done manually at the time by scraping off some bits of the image or adding them with a pencil or paint.
While it’s not unusual that photos were retouched, what I find extremely interesting (but also pretty sad) is that it was done to make people fit into particular beauty standards. Mainly women, just like today. Victorian and Edwardian eras had their “influencers” as well, mainly actresses. Their photos were retouched to make them reflect the beauty standards of the time – which had been changing over this period of time.
What’s also interesting is that it wasn’t only famous people whose photos were retouched. It was actually a common practice in most photos studios. Therefore, there were many “regular women” in the old photos whose waists were slimmed down or whose faces were touched up. If you take a closer look at the photos and look for corrections like Bernadette did, chances are you’ll find some corrections.
My favorite part of the video is the one where Bernadette talks about our perception of “facetuning” images, and why we tend to condemn it. She mentions the fact that, before photography, people were pained or drawn so these were definitely not fully realistic images of them. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, people would take a photo very rarely, maybe even only once in a lifetime. As a viewer, you’d only see such photos occasionally.
On the other hand, today we are flooded by photos and videos all the time. There are various social media channels available to us 24/7. And in all honestly, most of us scroll through them at least once a day on a daily basis. We see way more people in way more content. Many of them are pretending to be real when they’re actually not – which is what’s bothering us. Especially when it’s influencers whose content is followed by millions of people
All in all, “Facetune” doesn’t seem to be anything new. Just like beauty standards and trying to fit them. I personally had no idea that image editing went this far in time and that it was done with the same purpose as today on social media, so I found this video really amusing and educational. I hope you’ll enjoy it too!