Beauty in the Eye of the Advertiser: Is “Real” Authentic?

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Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg caused a stir in the stock photo world recently. Through her Lean In organization, Sandberg partnered with Getty Images to create a gallery of photos showing real women doing real things. Like all other stock images, this library is meant to be used by the media and anyone else who has the need for a generic visual. The goal is to change how society views beauty by changing what is seen on a day-to-day basis.

Will it work? Maybe, but the women, girls, and teenagers depicted are still glamorized — almost as if they fall into a paradox of being perfectly imperfect. One feature that may jump out at you is the subject’s “flaw,” what might bar them from a typical casting call or trait that would be glossed over digitally. However, at the end of the day, the women are just as beautiful as the images that normally bombard society. This picture shows a woman described as having long, beautiful, healthy hair — and she does. Every strand of her grey hair is shiny and indeed beautiful.

Photoshop and retouching pictures have led to a great beauty debate. Websites revel in being able to point out a digitally trimmed waist, or the overzealous digital brush that removed a limb. The fanfare created by such mistakes and enhancements has led to the use of “real women” as a marketing ploy. Again, we want that perfect-imperfect paradox. When digitally created flaws aren’t being exposed, we’re using relatable images that remain one step above reality.

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