One thing that really stood out to me while reading Chapter 2 of Seeing Ourselves Through Technology was the skin tone bias of photography. Throughout the last few pages of Chapter 2, the author talked a lot about this issue. A lot of the issue was from families of color, and they were not happy with the way that Kodak was improving their film. Keep in mind, this is from the 1950’s, when film was common. The problem was that early camera film was make to provide good detail for white faces, but the light sensitivity was so narrow that faces with darker skin were shown with hardly an detail. Often times, teeth and eyes were the only discernable features. You see how this can create a problem?
The skin tone bias of photography is a technological filter that distorts the photographic representations of many people, but it isn’t all about technology. In the mid-twentieth century, the common sterotypical drawings of African-Americans showed that is was not just camera technology causing the distortion, but it was also a cultural filter. The skin tone bias is, in some ways, similar to an Instagram filter, bot not a flattering one. Instead of making the person sparkle and shine, it dehumanizes them. One common reason for the beginning of selfies was instead of being the subject of other peoples photographs, you can be the subject of your own photographs.
Photographer McFadden said that one of the biggest reasons she began taking self-portraits and becoming a professional photographer was her horror at seeing photographs of herself. She never saw herself in the photos people took of her. For her, taking selfies was a way of avoiding the cultural and technological filters that you do not like or that do not represent you in a way that makes you feel like you.
Although this was not mentioned in the article, I feel like another common issue is the amount of filters we put on ourselves. When most of us think of a filter, we think of filters that we put on our photographs that we post to social media, but what about the filters that we put on ourselves?
When we wake up in the morning, before we walk out the front door to start our day, we are applying filters to ourselves. For example, we filter our attitude for the day. We choose if we are going to be happy and outgoing, angry and rude, or quiet and relaxed. We decide if we are going to have a pleasant smile on our face or if we are going to have a blank stare. We decide if we are going to put makeup on or not. We decide what clothes are going to wear, and how we are going to present ourselves for the day. We decide all of these things, not even thinking that we are “filtering” ourselves. We just do our daily routine and get on with our day.
I want to leave you with this thought though. When you think about the person you were two years ago, do you think you have changed? It could be a lot, it could be a little. It could be a good change, but it could also be a bad change. Do you think that these changes were caused by too much filtering on yourself?