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Photographer Asked Teens to Photoshop Their Own Portraits And The Results Will Shock You

Social media portrays a pretty clear image of what we ‘should’ aspire to look like and the pressure on young people, both male and female, is indescribable. Filters and editing apps, along with diets and make-up create a world in which not many young people are happy within their own skin.

British Photographer John Rankin Waddell, known as Rankin, along with company Visual Diet, recently created an inspiring project aptly named ‘Selfie Harm’ in which he asked several teens to Photoshop their own bare face self-portraits to what they expect to be ‘more social media friendly’. The results are astounding but not exactly shocking.


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For my latest series, Selfie Harm ๐Ÿคณ I photographed teenagers & handed them the image to then edit & filter until they felt the image was โ€˜social media readyโ€™. People are mimicking their idols, making their eyes bigger, their nose smaller and their skin brighter, and all for social media likes. Itโ€™s just another reason why we are living in a world of FOMO, sadness, increased anxiety, and Snapchat dysmorphia. Itโ€™s time to acknowledge the damaging effects that social media has on peopleโ€™s self-image. Thanks to: the incredible individuals that took part in the @Visual.Diet project; Jennifer, Felix, Alessandra, Maisie, Isaac, Seb, Beneditcte, Shereen, Mahalia, Eve, Siena, Tomas, Emma & Georgia. Also, @mimigray_ at @mcsaatchilondon, @marinetanguyart, @gemfletcher, @technicallyron & @justintindall on making this project come to life ๐Ÿ™Œ PLEASE NOTE ๐Ÿ“ The majority of subjects preferred their original image.

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The experiment has demonstrated just how much editing our images to become more socially acceptable has become normalised within modern society. Definitely not something to be taken lightly, it has largely come from a wealth of ‘perfect’ celebrities and influencers who portray unrealistic expectations.

A pivotal point in the experiment was the unfortunate fact that not one of the teens chose to leave their portraits as they were, and the majority Photoshopped theirs heavily in order to turn their image into something they were happy with. It shows just how easy it is to enhance an image so quickly. Skin was smoothed out, freckles covered, eyes widened and jawlines made slimmer.


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Hope is not lost, however, as Rankin made a point of saying that once the portraits were placed next to each other, the majority of teens actually preferred the untouched version of themselves. Perhaps indicating that in editing ourselves, we are pleading for acceptance from the rest of social media rather than from ourselves?

Experiments such as these are SO important in teaching the Gen Z, Millenial and younger generations about self-acceptance. We do not need to conform to what society portrays to be acceptable. Rankin, we are behind this one 100%.

Find all of the photos on Visual Diet’s Instagram here.

Image Source: Visual Diet, Rankin

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Isabelle is an avid music lover always in search of a good glass of wine and a weekend trip away. A typical Brit, is never far from a cup of tea.

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