Pics, But Did It Happen?

Words by Ardelis Yeung

“Pics or it didn’t happen”, “I’ll believe it when I see it”. But what if we can’t really believe what we see? The internet can be a beautiful gift that takes us to the furthest corners of the earth –  into habitats,  streets,  homes,  and even other times. Having such unlimited access,  we might forget to think about the process which yields each one of these images. This is what Alexander Jacquet, founder of media tech company Trusting Pixels, was doing before he started experiencing violent dreams: Creating a fantasy world as a CGI artist on Game of Thrones.  

Each day for six months, producing highly detailed visual effects of amputated limbs and beheaded necks. Immersion in this make-believe world slowly started leaking outside of studio work and into his sleeping hours. Deeply disturbed and intrigued by these  dreams, the digital artist was driven to conduct a deep dive into the research of the psychological effects of what one consumes visually. 

In a matter of minutes,  a woman’s waist can lose inches,  hips and breasts shaped and augmented, all skin folds – well, without folds. But there can be just enough imperfection created to still look natural. “Surprisingly, the most common thing is skin” observes Alex, founder of Trusting Pixels. Skin made smooth, even, and glowing, yet not completely poreless. 

“With great power comes great responsibility” – what if this power of computer generated imaging could be used for good? But major brands in recent years have been paving the way endorsing unretouched models and embracing real beauty. Right?

What does unretouched actually mean? Were flyaway hairs exactly where they were? Were all the wrinkles in the garments as they were in person? What if our perception and cultural baseline of “real” and “natural” beauty was actually manufactured? We go from comparing ourselves to the airbrushed and overly retouched people,  though knowing they are mostly retouched, to comparing ourselves to slightly less retouched images of people whom we now believe to be completely natural. So, how many unwanted details were removed? Surprisingly, very many. How do we know this? Enter Trusting Pixels.  “Digital forensics is the backbone of our company”, explains Alex. There is a trail of data when a digital image has been altered. Setting the new industry standard of unretouched, the company carefully examines submitted content before issuing a certificate of authenticity. In addition, if an image is deemed unretouched, any and all minor changes are disclosed (tamed hair, makeup, etc.).

Can this Vancouver based company pave the way for a more transparent way of media presence? A time when photographers capture moments as they were, humans as they are, and makeup artistry in it’s true essence of every pigment.

Will these promises restore the confidence and self-image issues inherent to millennials and gen z? Kodak days are gone, that’s for sure. Maybe we can have best of both worlds after all.