Simulacra, Hyperreality, and Photoshop works

Aena Cho

According to Baudrillard’s writings on simulacra and simulation, simulacrum refers to a representation of something that creates a hyper-reality, becoming more real than the actual object itself.  To many of us, it is not an abstract, irrelevant philosophical concept anymore not only because of the popular movie, The Matrix but also because of the increase and ubiquity of simulacra in this modern digital world, particularly in form of visual imageries.  Indeed, lots of visual representation of these days including photographs and films are not mere reflection or duplication of something.  As most of them are digitally – produced, altered, distributed, and consumed with a variety of different technologies, they become distant from their origins.   Eventually, these digitally mediated imageries stop being projections of something and grow into their own realities which bear no resemblance to their original, becoming in themselves.   They are indeed what Baudrillard calls as ‘simulacra’ which exist regardless of reality.

The most typical example of such simulacra today is photoshopped pictures of celebrities including actors, actresses, and models for advertisements, magazine covers, movie posters, etc.  As we all know, many of them are not “raw” but at least somewhat digitally- reprocessed usually by the use of the Photoshop program.  The end results are usually “perfect” appearances of individuals with flawless skin and body – which never exists in reality – simulacra. Then, how do these celebrities’ simulacra become ‘hyperreal’, overwhelm, or even replace the reality even if we all know that those simulacra are just made-up imageries?

celebrities_get_the_photoshop_treatment_640_02    In these pictures, although we all know that the left one, unphotoshopped Madonna, is the true representation of Madonna, it looks unfamiliar, surreal or even wrong to us.  On the other hand, even though we know that the right one is airbrushed and an altered image, simulacrum, it is certainly more identifiable.  The enhanced Madonna is what the public recognizes and accepts as the iconic Madonna: it is the real Madonna; the simulacrum overtakes the physical reality.  As long as Madonna is always presented to the public as such an enhanced simulacrum, in the eyes of that public, the simulacrum is always her true self.

madonna_beforeafter      before-after-harry-styles-before-and-after-photoshop-by-ThalesRC-b_1    mariah-carey-in-a-bikini-before-and-after-photoshop1


<References >

Baudrillard, Jean. Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and simulation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1988. Print.