Fashion photo retoucher says "No more"

Speaking of Brave… This Los Angeles man, Roy A. Cui, a digital photo retoucher, is giving up a large part of his livelihood – retouching photographs in the fashion and beauty industry – because of the harm that unrealistic images in the media do to women and girls.That’s brave.

And then he made a video about his journey to this decision. It’s called, “I Don’t Know What Happens Next.”

“I never questioned the ethics of what I was being asked to manipulate,” he says in the video, until ten years ago, when he had the opportunity to tell a young shop clerk that he had worked on some of the images she was seeing in her own store.

“She was horrified. She told me that she had no idea and that she came to work everyday thinking that something was wrong with her because she didn’t look like the girls modeling the clothes in the pictures.”

I was so impressed by this video, I got in touch with Mr. Cui to find out more.

He talked about going to see Miss Representation, a film about the misrepresentation of women in the media. While he watched from the audience, one of the images he had retouched came up onto the screen. That’s when he decided he had to act, to become part of the solution.

Mr. Cui said he has been surprised, since creating the video – which was used as part of the Miss Representation Keep it Real campaign, and posted to his own brand new blog – by the profuse thanks and emotional response he has seen in comments on the blog, YouTube and the Miss Representation site.

“Many women were very moved. Such an emotional reaction surprised me,” he said when I reached him by phone on Tuesday.

“What’s also surprising to me is that the thanks aren’t only coming from women; I’m receiving comments of appreciation from fathers who are just as concerned for their daughters as I am for my own,” he added by email. His daughter, 11, is proud of him for his decision to be part of a solution to harmful media images. 

Now, he’s updating his portfolio to focus on retouching of fine art and automobile photos, and thinking of a new line of business: helping to educate young people about the manipulation of media images. Here at Marketing, Media and Childhood, we call that Media Literacy education, and we are in favor of it.


It’s been a busy week or two in the world of unrealistic media images. 

Here, 13-year-old Zachary Kimmel talks about how unrealistic media images of girls and women affect him and other boys.

The images are everywhere – on big billboards, on TV, on our computers, in our phones. They’re in our heads, too, so they’re all over our peer groups. But these images aren’t real beauty, and they may not be what any of us – girls or boys – really think is beautiful.  It distorts our perceptions of the girls in our lives and it alters the girls in our lives perceptions of us, too. It hurts us all.

Meanwhile, Seventeen Magazine has pledged not to alter photos of girls in its pages, after a petition campaign by 14-year old Julia Bluhm. Here’s my view, published at Let Children Play.

See it here at Spark a Movement

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