Filtering Reality: The Pressure To Hide Skin Conditions and Blemishes in Images
One evening when my youngest daughter was 2 years old, she was running around the living room excited that her Daddy was back from work early. Suddenly she tripped over and fell into our old fireplace hitting her cheek bone on the metal grate.
The cut was clean, but deep and we took her to hospital to get it looked at. They ended up gluing the cut, but it didn’t help much and I was devastated about the scar that would inevitably appear. I wanted my baby girl to be perfect.
We had booked a photoshoot for a few days after the accident which I pushed back a couple of months, but there was still a visible red mark on my daughter’s face. A few weeks after the shoot when I was reviewing the pictures with the photographer he offered to digitally remove the wound from the photographs. Time had helped me come to terms with the injury and I refused, recognising that this was part of her history and it would be strange to rewrite it. I wish I could claim to have always been so authentic.
It’s so easy these days to edit photographs to remove marks and blemishes. A filter can make skin conditions less obvious and apps can take them away entirely in seconds. In a world where there is pressure on social media networks to get as many likes as possible we want to look our best. I’ll admit to regularly removing spots from my selfies. At nearly 40 it feels unfair that I still have them and as I don’t wear much make up it is easy to remove them on the photograph, but what pressure are we putting on ourselves and others when we are constantly changing reality?
I have spoken before about the eczema my eldest had when she was 1, but I struggle to find clear images of it. Knowing how many photos I take, I must have captured the angry red skin plenty of times on camera, but looking back at the images the eczema is hard to spot in any of the ones I kept.
I also remember that my children have had baby acne, cradle cap and very dry skin as newborns, but these are largely absent from my Instagram photos at the time. Careful filters, camera angles and lighting hid these common skin conditions. I wanted everyone to say how adorable my children were, not to comment on their skin.
Magazines have long been criticised for photoshopping models and celebrities, but most of us are guilty of displaying an alternate reality, even if it’s only sharing images of the “good” days, but in turn that makes us (and our children) more self conscious of how we look. If we don’t see images of children with eczema or dermatitis, sufferers are more likely to feel they are alone and parents are subconsciously saying there is something to hide about these skin conditions. It also means there will be less conversations about it and people are less likely to get support and help. Is it time to be more real online?
Read more on Kate's Counting to Ten blog.