Sparky

by Lily Burana

Ever since the pin-up made its back-alley entrance into pop culture, folks have been aware that sex symbols are not discovered, but rather, created—not just through grooming, styling and posing, but also through the miracle of photo retouching. Not all prurient pictures are embellished; however, the possibility that some of the girls (and boys) of our dreams may be the product of a photo editor's imagination—and retouching acumen—arouses certain questions: Are the majority of pin-up photos enhanced? How have the techniques and technologies behind creating the perfect pin-up changed over the years? And has the porno aesthetic evolved accordingly?

It's well-nigh impossible to determine exactly what percentage of nudie pix are retouched. In fact, to get any details at all about the art of pin-up enhancement, one must first push through a flimsy curtain of denial; art directors at men's magazines guard the facts of retouching with a depth of discretion usually reserved for government officials entrusted with state secrets. Said one Playboy staffer with a nervous laugh, "I don't know if I'm authorized to talk about how we alter our photos because, um, our company line has always been that we don't do any retouching." She paused. "But I think anyone who lives in the real world knows that that's not true." Well, yeah.

Initially, when the average cheesecake mag featured nothing more risque than models frolicking with the top down, creating the image of the perfect woman was literally a cut and paste job. "Back in the old days, if we wanted to cover up an unsightly blemish or bruise that showed up on a photo, we'd make a copy of the photo, cut out a good patch of skin from the copy, then stick it right on top of whatever it was we wanted to cover on the original and make a stat of that," says one veteran photo editor. Later on, when photos showing flashes of pubic hair (and more) hit the racks at the back of the cigar store, the means of retouching became more complex: enter the age of the airbrush.

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