Sophie Schmidt: North Korean Photoshop
Over the last few weeks, I've seen a lot of people sharing the link to Sophie Schmidt's short summery of her recent trip to North Korea [sites.google], which she visited along with her father, Eric Schmidt, Google's Executive Chairman. As I follow a lot of North Korean oriented blog feeds, I picked up on this soon after it was originally published and I quickly spotted something odd with some of the photographs. These were easy to spot in the original high resolution versions, which were accessible after some clicking.
The images she included of herself have very obvious alterations made to them. Notably to the skin on her face, and the area between her lower extremities.
The skin alterations are obviously to do with spots and blemishes, which can be seen in other photos of her trip to Korea, but the other alteration seems a little more mysterious. One could assume it's mere digital thigh reduction and leave it at that, but it's done so badly if so, and has left the strangest of anomalies, that it wasn't immediately clear what she was trying to cover-up (perhaps an unfortunately placed shadow on the ground, for instance).
These two images have since been dropped from the Google page she wrote-up, but are still hosted online.
After spotting the alterations, I tepidly asked Dr. Neal Krawetz [hackerfactor], if he had any opinions on them. Krawetz has habit of analysing images taken, in and about North Korea. Due to some miscommunication, he didn't pick up on what image alterations I was referring to. So I left things lye after that, until some days ago, when I ran the images through Krawetz's image forensics site [fotoforensics.com], which very clearly showed up some of the alterations.
There are reasons why these images have motivated me enough to blog about them now. First, and most trivially, it's "bad photoshop". If you're going to fix an image and try and pass it off as genuine, do a better job of it, or get someone who knows what they're doing to do it for you. Secondly, it appeals to my interests in women [people] manipulating their image to fit in with what they think others want to see. Removing pimples is one thing, re-sculpting yourself to fit a certain notion of size and shape, is particularly abhorrent. You are wonderful as you are, no need to go chopping bits off yourself. We need less of this fakery in general. Finally, and most crucially, it's a fairly clear example of Western hypocrisy. Her piece on North Korea is filled with the typical anti-DPRK mantra you would expect, describing how the citizens are kept in the dark and manipulated by state media. She offers anecdotes on how the computer labs she visited seemed to only exist for photo opportunities. Meanwhile, she returns from North Korea and passes off photoshop' images of herself as reality. It just stuck in my craw, as they say.
This is hardly the stuff of grand conspiracy theories or extravagant scandals, it's just a young woman who is overly conscious about her image. The trip summary strikes me as something that wasn't intended to be as popular as it turned out to be, but that's the perils of the free Internet for you.
Posted at 23:59