Artist Christopher Williams Creates Exhibit Showing Advertising Without Photoshop


Christopher Williams is a relatively unknown artist who currently has an exhibit on display at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) until November 2nd in New York City. It is called ‘The Production Line of Happiness’ and aims to subvert specific messages of consumerism by showing images we are accustomed to seeing, but that have something askew about them.

He told Elle magazine why his exhibit is an interesting discourse on pop culture today, and why he wants people who see his photographs to question what they know about consumerism.

One of the industries in question is advertising, where Christopher examines the use of photoshop. There is a photograph of a woman in her underwear, and her bra is pinned on one side, her feet are dirty, you can see the rolls of skin on her side, and there are moles on her back. The point of this photo was to show what advertising normally gets rid of: the “realness”.

“In fashion, you don’t have dirty feet. When something is being mobilized as a fantasy image—something for a pinup context—the dirt would stand in the way of this idealized, perfect, sexual object. The dirt introduces something that helps the image to run against the grain.”


Another photo shows a bar of soap being modeled in a mock advertising shot, where Christopher deliberately chose an older model with age spots on her hand. This is something you would probably never see in a real soap advertisement. His point is to show that normally, these “flaws” would’ve been photoshopped out to project some sort of fantasy.

His interest is in the reality of a shot, and it is certainly a poignant commentary on what society has become accustomed to. The fact that we might automatically balk at the picture below or above is telling of how much of a machine consumerism is. Perhaps we could even go as far as to say how successfully the advertising industry has managed to brainwash us into rejected real images and desiring only the fantasy, despite never being able to achieve it ourselves.


For the last 35 years, Williams has been creating art that critiques capitalism by forcing the viewer to reconsider the function of commercial messaging. His work is not the only commentary on how far consumerism has come. Photographer Esther Honig recently undertook a project where she asked digital retouchers from around the world to photoshop a picture of her face. The results were varied and somewhat shocking. Not only was it a telling tale of how different each nation views beauty and so-called “perfection”, but also that every single country altered her face in some way.

It is a little scary to think that we live in a world where consumerism rules and advertising is the vehicle through which it is driven. We are continually force-fed imagery that completely subverts reality, and allows us to think there is something wrong with the way we look since we don’t resemble anything in the pages of a magazine or the picture on a billboard.

These advertising images need to be challenged and dissected in a way that allows a new kind of conversation to be part of the medium. Sure there are projects, people and messages popping up with go against what we are used to seeing, but they are still few and far between. The day that moles on a woman’s back, rolls on skin and dirty feet become normal, or a plus size woman flaunting her curves on a Victoria’s Secret billboard become commonplace, that is the day we as a society have finally rewired our brains to define and think about bodies, beauty and perfection from a viewpoint that is realistic, and that is our own.

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One Comment

  1. Pingback: 'Love The Skin You're In' Art Project Confronts Our Obsession With Beauty

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