Hey mum and dad, would you like to airbrush away your littlie's childhood? A strange offer from a Melbourne photographer is offering just that ... read on ...
When her three-year-old son's professional childcare photos came home with an offer to airbrush away dirt and bruising on his face, mum Amanda Cox was saddened, newspapers reported today.
The note attached to the photos read: "When we photographed your child there were marks, ie. dirty face, dirty nose, bruising, scratches on their face. If you would like them removed please contact the office for a retouching fee."
Ms Cox said it wasn't the first time photos of her three sons had been offered a retouching service.
"There's obviously a demand for this so they're able to offer the service, which I think concerns me," Ms Cox said.
"There's and an essential part of development. We're already making a lot of really fun stories behind minor injuries that happen when you're a kid, and it's all a part of life and it's all a part of growth. The world around them far too safe and so now when they do bang their heads that gets removed from photos."
"Some people like to see their kid with a scratch on their face or with freckles and others don't"
The proof shots of her youngest son, Charlie, were too small to see any bruising on his face but Ms Cox said she would never choose to have the marks removed.
"I look at that photo and go 'oh, that's right, he got that bruise when he did such and such', and they're stories that we have."
Melbourne Photo Repair owner Ilona Komersaroff said parents often asked for their kids' photos to be retouched.
"Some people like to see their kid with a scratch on their face or with freckles and others don't," Ms Komersaroff said.
"It's quite common that people want pictures of babies and young school kids fixed up so that it's a perfect photo." Parenting expert Kathy Walker said the trend to airbrush kids' photos was a concerning sign of society's tendency to make everyone look perfect.
"It's all part of the same issue isn't a child having a photo at school or kinder just able to be as they are?
"Some of them will have a bad hair day and some of them will have a cut knee . . . I think that's indicative of how they are and that's the nature of childhood."
WHEN is it OK to airbrush away any "imperfections" on a preschooler's face, to ensure everyone in little Timmy's childcare photo looks uniformly flawless, writes Wendy Tuohy from the Herald Sun.
Never, would be my answer; because not only does that amount to erasing signs of a childhood really lived - a smudge of dirt, bit of grot, a bruise or scratch - it is the top of a very slippery slope.
Start rubbing out the evidence that early childhood is messy and imperfect, and where do you end up?
Shaving 5kg off that awkward teen who fails to resemble Kate Moss in the year 8 school photo? Retouching a girl's whole face to give her Scarlett Johansson skin? Don't laugh, the latter has already happened.
Quite apart from the potential damage to children's self-esteem, childhood is NOT a Country Road catalogue and nor should it be airbrushed into looking like it is.
When a Melbourne childcare centre offered a mother the chance to zap away dirt and other marks on her child's face, as reported in today's Herald Sun, no doubt it felt it was doing the right thing (while making a tidy retouching fee).
But like the firm that removed VCE girls' "messy" ponytails and earrings, airbrushed faces and even changed their ears last year, it could not be more out of touch with community values, or commercial ones. Or with common sense.
To be fair to that firm, it later revealed it had been advised by the Box Hill school to make some changes; in the end the debacle was put down to "miscommunication". The photography provider was very remorseful, and rightly so.
Because, as the editors of the world's biggest magazines will tell you, people have had it up to here with manipulation, unrealistic images of perfection and fakeness, generally. What readers and consumers want is just some healthy authenticity.
We are sick of being told that we - or our children - are not quite good enough; and of having our children marinate in messages that cumulatively pose a serious threat to their mental and physical health.
Only last week six New York teens summed this mood up perfectly when they took the fakeness-fight to the head offices of Teen Vogue.
The girls tapped into the common feeling that the community will no longer tolerate the prevalence of airbrushing trickery, and all the appearance-judgment it implies, and they made world headlines in the process.
The girls presented a petition of 28,000 signatures to the Teen Vogue editors asking them to stop airbrushing girls' images, and start to "keep it real".
This followed 14-year-old Julia Bluhm's presentation of a petition of 84,000 signatures to the US editors of the girls' magazine Seventeen, also demanding the end of airbrushing.
Bluhm secured a historic Body Peace Treaty with the editors, who vowed to avoid retouching photos and to "integrate more real girls into its pages".
Even mature fashion brands, such as Vogue, have realised that pumping out a single definition of digitally enhanced perfection is now considered irresponsible.
Vogue editors recently agreed upon a group-wide Health Initiative to try to promote more realistic and saner images of women. Underweight models will no longer be used, and neither will child models in women's fashion shoots.
"Vogue believes that good health is beautiful," said a company spokesman, intelligently giving customers what he knows they want.
Sure, all this seems a long way from taking the grime and bumps off the image of a three-year-old's face at a childcare centre in Melbourne.
But, as far as encouraging children, young adults and everyone else to have healthy self-esteem, surely the motto should be from little (grotty, imperfect) things, big (healthy) things grow.
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