I've thought quite a bit about how culture, and specifically media, impact our perception of what is beautiful in a person. As a person who has struggled with my own self-image, and has "discussions" with men about what their expectations of the appearance of women are or should be, I am always interested in exposing the reality of media distortion of beauty.
A year ago, I did a class at a youth camp about how the images we see in advertisments are "falsified" from the reality of what the person in the image looks like. When air brush retouching was the way it was done, most pictures in ads were, for the most part, as is. With the ease of computer technology, the standard is now for retouching images. And "retouching" is an understatement. In my class I pulled photos from the web - examples from the portfolios of leading ad photographers, how-to sites, and other places demonstrating how significant some of these changes can be.
I have used photoshop to create new images from others. It's enjoyable to be able to apply skills and see how much control we have over what others see. The downside, is that if people consistently see made-up images, their perception of "normal" becomes skewed.
I came across 2 videos from another blog I read. While the changes in some of the images are subtle, they certainly inform us about what we "should" look like.