Lena Dunham Is Done With Photoshop — For Good

Photo: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images.
Last week, Lena Dunham started a public conversation about Photoshop sparked by a heavily-retouched Tentaciones, a Spanish magazine cover of the star. There was some back-and-forth over whether the magazine actually edited the photo, which was licensed from an old shoot. But Dunham set the record straight in an impassioned personal essay she penned for this week's Lenny Letter.
The actress explained that the particulars don't quite matter in the larger picture. "I didn’t have the energy or the drive to figure out at what point in its journey this image had lost my dimpled thighs or bulge of bicep fat, or whether my chin had been recrafted," she explained. "[W]as the image Photoshopped somewhere between raw digital file and Spanish glory? I think so, but who knows and really, who cares." The real issue? "I don’t recognize my own fucking body anymore. And that’s a problem."
The Girls star recounts how when she started doing professional shoots, she never thought to protest retouching. "I was 24, and whatever they did to make women appear important, desirable, and worthy of praise was what I wanted." But in the back of her mind, the actress — who has always been comfortable showing her unretouched body onscreen for Girls — knew she was being hypocritical. "Considering my commitment to showing my realistic body onscreen, this was a kind of cognitive dissonance I didn’t want to, and couldn’t yet, consider."
Photo: Courtesy of Vogue.
Dunham's first Photoshop disaster happened in 2014, when Jezebel put a bounty on the un-retouched photos from her Vogue cover-shoot. "Two years later and I’ve done countless shoots since, heard photographers say 'We’ll fix it in post'... They mean the parts of me that are ungainly and overstuffed. They mean the parts that hang over waistbands and bubble out from under Spanx." Still, Dunham went along with it. "I didn’t ask questions, assuming this was the game that made the rest of my creative life possible." And, she admits that she liked seeing perfected images of her imperfect body. "I also didn’t ask questions because it feels nice to look at a photo of yourself where everything that’s ever felt like too much is suddenly under perfect, glossy control."
For one reason or another, the Tentaciones cover was the last straw. "But something snapped when I saw that Spanish cover," Dunham says. "Maybe it was the feeling of barely recognizing myself and then being told it was 100 percent me but knowing it probably wasn’t and studying the picture closely for clues... Maybe it was the fact that I no longer understand what my own thighs look like," she continued. "But I knew that I was done." Done with the inherent dishonesty of Photoshopping.

A photo posted by Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) on

For one reason or another, the Tentaciones cover was the last straw. "But something snapped when I saw that Spanish cover," Dunham says. "Maybe it was the feeling of barely recognizing myself and then being told it was 100 percent me but knowing it probably wasn’t and studying the picture closely for clues... Maybe it was the fact that I no longer understand what my own thighs look like," she continued. "But I knew that I was done." Done with the inherent dishonesty of Photoshopping.
"The gap between what I believe and what I allow to be done to my image has to close now. If that means no more fashion-magazine covers, so be it," the author declares. "If any magazines want to guarantee they’ll let my stomach roll show and my reddened cheek make an appearance, I am your girl Friday."
Dunham then signed off, "This body is the only one I have. I love it for what it’s given me. I hate it for what it’s denied me. And now, without further ado, I want to be able to pick my own thigh out of a lineup." And we say cheers to that.

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