Molly Sheridan: Unretouched Photo Shock

Image of model for artisan, independent, luxury, eau de parfum brand REEK Perfume’s rebellious, feminist, unretouched, campaign with quote from critic.
Image of model for artisan, independent, luxury, eau de parfum brand REEK Perfume’s rebellious, feminist, unretouched, campaign with quote from critic.

What happened when one of the REEK perfume team posted our unretouched beauty images to a beauty group on FB? It wasn’t pretty! 

At REEK. perfume we like to push the boundaries, not only with our product and brand development but within our team as well.  So when I announced I had published images, from our recent unretouched campaign, of myself completely nude with no retouching all over my own social media, there was little reaction at HQ.

The campaign imagery was already being used on our website and social media, so we didn’t think it could cause much of a stir as it was already out there. We had already shown hundreds of people who had reactions good and bad. All of us work in the creative industry and so we see this type of imagery a lot, especially in portraiture. We had models simply wanting to scowl, show off their furrowed brow, give us the finger, reveal their arm hair or uncover their scars. It was a mix of imagery, all within the models’ comfort zone. We only had two rules, all natural lighting and no post-shoot retouching.

Not retouching images isn’t a revolutionary concept within the beauty industry but it is, let’s say, refreshing. The industry is famous for selling customers an unattainable and often, unhealthy idea of what a product can achieve physically/psychologically. Can this lipstick make my lips a different colour? Yes. Can they make them into someone else’s lips? No. Then there is the larger issue, that most beauty advertising features women seeking or attaining the attention of men. This often comes across as looking gorgeous, but in an unachievable-and-unrealistic-2 hours-in-hair-and-make-up-50-light-boxes-and-20-hours-in-post-editing sort of way.

Now would be a good time to bring up my other job, I am a freelance make-up artist so I work with a lot of high-end brands to create this unachievable look. As REEK. perfume’s art director I was determined to strike a balance. Our campaign wasn’t to put down women wearing a full face of make up or wanting to achieve that coveted perfect winged eyeliner. It had to be about celebrating all women and making the hundreds, thousands, no millions of different styles and ideas of beauty the norm.

The first reactions I got from the deep dark web were mixed. Here are some of the comments posted along with the pictures. The question I asked was if people could identify with our campaign and how the current standard of beauty industry advertisement made them feel. It makes me sad to see only one kind of beauty represented when there is so much more to celebrate. I’m ready for the challenge of change. I hope some of you Damn Rebel Bitches are with me.