Open Letters to People or Entities Who Are Unlikely to Respond
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An Open Letter to the New York Times Style Section Photo Retoucher.
Dear sir or madam,
I realize your job is not an easy one. You’ve been asked to take the pictures of the couples who have recently been married, and somehow enhance their looks.
I understand that these couples, having sent in their pictures to your section to celebrate their marital union, would appreciate any enhancement that you might be able to provide. And I understand that the computer technology of the day allows you to work wonders. These tools allow a skilled professional to alter photos imperceptibly — to hide blemishes, improve dimensions, make the chubby thinner and the freckled less so. These are powerful tools.
That said, I have to wonder why the couples in your photos look as if they’ve been eating powdered donuts while gazing into an atomic explosion. You know what I’m talking about. Someone has asked you to make the couples seem more attractive, and you’ve focused on the teeth and the whites of their eyes. And instead of using the many “contrast” or “levels” tools available in Photoshop or other image manipulation programs, you are simply painting white onto their teeth and eyes. With a brush the size of a plunger.
This sort of thing was done many decades ago. Before color photography, photo retouchers used to paint over the prints, to add color to skin and landscapes. It was a very imprecise art, and we look back on those days and laugh with glee.
New York Times Style Section Photo Retoucher, we are no longer in those times, and we don’t want to look at your own work with glee. We want to look at those who send in their information to your Style section and see where the bride’s and groom’s parents work or used to work. Like everyone else who reads this section, we have no idea why we are reading it. We read it and wish we were hitting ourselves in the head with a mallet while doing so. There is no reason to read this section.
But still we do. And while we do, we would like to enjoy the pictures of the betrothed without wondering if something happened to them and they are now radioactive. There is something very radioactive-seeming about just how much the teeth of these people glow, and something very sinister about how white are the whites of their eyes.
Yes, we admit, there remains the possibility that no clumsy retouching has been done, that every last smiling one of the wedding announcers just happens to have teeth and eyes that are whiter than even the newsprint they’re printed on, and that this white, in real life, actually often bleeds onto their gums, lips and eyeballs, as it often does in the Style section. We would feel bad for these people, because their friends would have to avert their own eyes in their presence, and would be afraid that some of the white, which seems about to drip from their teeth and eyes in pictures, would drip onto their shoes or hardwood floors. And that kind of thing is very hard to get out of hardwood floors.
But we are wagering that this is not the case. We are wagering that in real life, these people have normally-white eyes and teeth, and, while appreciating the effort put forth by you, Style Section Photo Retoucher, they might also appreciate a little restraint.
Let’s say we make a trade. You pull back a little bit with your whitening-by-plunger-brush, and we allow you to go crazy somewhere else. Perhaps, when a younger person has married a much older person, you could make that older person more youthful, or — even better — vice versa. Imagine what your magic wand could do! Have you ever done makeup for a junior-high production of Our Town? It would be much like that. Throw some dark lines around the eyes and mouth and voila! They’re decades older. Like Our Town, your work would be a big hit with everyone.
We leave the rest to you, Style Section Photo Retoucher. We are rooting for you.
Thanks in advance,
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