The Beauty Arts

Found over at dana boyd's blog and posted to her YouTube account, a short film on the production of one slick headshot:

Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, Toronto
Co-CCOs: Nancy Vonk & Janet Kestin
ACD/Writer/Art Director: Tim Piper
Production Company: Reginald Pike
Director: Yael Staav
Music: Vapor Music, Toronto

Yeal Stave, who directed the above vid, has a video portfolio here; he's directed other ads for such products as Clorox and Bounce.

It's the last thirty seconds or so of the video, focused on Photoshop manipulation of the still image, that I find most interesting: neck elongation, shoulder narrowing, cheek tightening, bigger eyes, new hair, and significant color redistribution.

Anyone who's used the clone stamp in Photoshop knows that this kind of retouching is a piece of cake, but to see it in time-lapse (as opposed to just before-and-after comparison stills) is to see photo re-imaging as a composition process with specific choices that reflect particular signifying elements in the facial structure.

Since I'm teaching a session on Photoshop composition (including the production of image/texts and animated .gifs) on Friday, the video gets me wandering down the old familiar wonder.lane where I contemplate what ultimately is done with the knowledge, tools, and skills students acquire in my courses. Learning to use Photoshop well doesn't take much time, and it's a powerful composition technology. I can't think of anything that could emphasize this more than the above video; at the same time, you have to know that students will do what they choose with what they learn in the academy.


  1. This video should be mandatory viewing for anybody who engages commercial culture. Which is to say, everybody.

  2. wow, that's really a cool piece.

  3. c . . .10:40 AM

    important to note, of course, that the video itself is part of Dove's 'real women' marketing campaign. . . rather than being a comment on consumer culture, it's an attempt to re-articulate that culture in service of a particular brand . . .

  4. I think it is both: self-interested and comment on consumer culture (when consumer culture is read as facilitated by manipulated bodies). My sense is that these signals don't necessarily negate one another.

    Dove, btw, is owned by Unilever -- which also owns Slimfast. Unilever's brands are listed here:


    Though the ad is "for" Dove, it's also produced by http://www.ogilvy.com and re-circulated/repurposed by the dozens of YouTubers who have republished it. In this way, I think, there's a particular brand promoted in the vid and many other less particular stakeholders re-using/re-inscribing the ad.

  5. c . . .12:50 PM

    ah yes, i should have stuck a "simply" and an "also" in there ('rather than simply being a comment on consumer culture, it's also . . .)

    but, my point about dove's role in the production is not that they control its reception (as you point out, they don't fully), but that we should probably also view the production critically . . .

  6. Oh yes! These campaigns trying to convince us to "consume more responsibly" are bound up with sooooo many contradictions.

    Just check out Dove's homepage (http://www.dove.us/) to see plenty of example of highly produced images of exactly the kind the 30-second vid can be read as critiquing.