Return of the Retouched

Like a good plastic surgeon, the best photo retouch artists never leave a trace of their cuts and fills when they make bodies more seductive. But thanks to a project developed by members of OpenLab, Eyebeam's research and development fellowship program for technology projects, the unseen work of the retouch artist is coming back to haunt perfected images. 'The Art of Detouch' is an application that generates a pixel-by-pixel comparison of a picture before and after retouching. It then isolates and displays the altered elements using transitional animations and multiple color codes to indicate the location and intensity of the digital nips and tucks. The silhouettes that result are ghostly outlines of excess hair, skin, and clothing that were removed during the retouch process. The project contains a strong element of social critique--it draws attention to the heavy manipulation that goes into representations of the female body--but its real brilliance is measured by how mesmerizing the animated visualizations are to watch. As we interrogate our visual culture, it never hurts to use tools that are works of art in their own right. - Bill Hanley