ECU student project explores body image through photo manipulation
By Kathryn Kennedy
ECU News Services
East Carolina University senior Anna Hill never imagined that sharing the results of an end-of-semester project online would draw attention from national media.
The New Bern native had just finished her final project for School of Art & Design professor Daniel Kariko’s advanced digital photography class. The assignment left plenty of room for creativity, so she melded two things that were on her mind: using software to manipulate the female image and the exaggerated benefits presented by cosmetic companies.
The result was a series of four mock advertisements featuring modified photos of Hill and advertising “shiny Android skin,” “limb lengthening” and other faux beauty treatments delivered courtesy of Photoshop editing.
“I thought, ‘these are kind of cool,'” she recalled. “Let’s see what people think.”
She posted the ads to social news and entertainment website Reddit. Almost overnight, Hill’s work rose to the site’s front page and drew interview requests and articles from Yahoo! News, The Huffington Post and other media outlets. They wanted to know about her inspiration, and readers wanted to see what she’d created.
“My website usually gets one, two, three hits a day,” Hill explained. “It jumped that day to 18,000. I was completely freaking out.”
Her work isn’t the only critique on images of female beauty to go viral recently. And two days after her project was in the spotlight, raunchy Comedy Central cartoon South Park riffed on the same topic.
“It’s been something in the news a lot lately,” she admitted. “Celebrities before and after Photoshop, those kind of things. People like seeing that this super-perfect standard of beauty isn’t real.”
But Hill also experienced something in creating the ads that she didn’t expect.
“It does change your perception,” she said of the falsified images. “After looking at the edited version (of my photo) for a while, I’d look back at my normal face and think, ‘Ugh.'”
Hill said the pieces are uncharacteristic of her art, which often involves photo manipulation but features surreal, otherworldly images rather than social commentary. Still, she’s hoping the notoriety brought by this project will yield good luck in a job search later this year.
To see more of Hill’s art and photography, visit her personal website at http://nebulaedecay.com.