Photographer Attempts to Normalize Acne With Unretouched Set of Photographs

Photographer Attempts to Normalize Acne With Unretouched Set of Photographs

A 20-year-old New York-based photographer takes a stance against the practice of using Photoshop to edit and retouch blemishes from portraits.

Peter Devito, a photographer and student at the Fashion Institute of Technology, admits that he previously had a hard time even sharing an image of himself online without Photoshopping it first. Now, he is finding a legion of followers willing to support his latest effort – a set of images, not retouched, featuring human skin with all of its imperfections, including the pimples, red spots, bumps, and the other characteristics that make the surface of everyone’s skin unique.

Devito says he was inspired by people on social media when they started posting about body positivity and self-acceptance. Noticing an absence of individuals with acne, Devito seized the opportunity to create a unique set of images tightly cropped on faces marked with temporary tattoos of statements such as “acne is normal,” and the word “retouch” (appropriately crossed out).

It's never been easier to remove a blemish and give our subjects almost alien-like skin, free of blemishes using tools made available via software such as Adobe's Photoshop, but is doing so wrong? Is there an invisible line that we as photographers shouldn't cross when retouching images? If so, where is that line? What kind of affect does retouching images to the extent that the appearance of the subject's skin is flawless have on teens who may be dealing with a perfectly normal level of acne? 

[via Elle

Dusty Wooddell's picture

Dusty Wooddell is a professional photographer based in the Southwestern United States. Self-proclaimed thinker, opportunity seeker, picky eater, observer of things.

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fix your diet and you'll fix your acne. crappy skin--acne, blemishes, etc--isn't acceptable when someone else is paying for the production.

So true about diet, it's all about what we put in our bodies and on our skin! Not many people know this though. Luckily most models I've worked with are working on their skin and know what to do, for everyone else it's not really a big deal

This can help and/or eliminate acne for some people, and for others, it makes no difference whatsoever.
Absolute statements such as this one are just as incorrect as saying "calories in versus calories out". Quite often, it's NOT so simple.

Wrong. Here's an example...

Good luck seeing him admit he was wrong, even when he posts such a simplistic absolute statement that is easily proven wrong with a bit of nuanced information. Enjoy the rabbit hole this one will take you down!

How a photographer can't comprehend shades of gray, I'll never know... :-D

Oh that’s a good one!

Wow... You're really illustrating your preference for black/white, on/off, 0/1. OF COURSE you'll lose weight if you stop eating. DUH. My point, which you either seem to miss, or ignore, is that if a person's BMR is 1600 calories per day, that dropping that person down to 1100 per day doesn't guarantee they'll lose 1 lb of fat per week. Sometimes, other factors are at play - especially hormones.

I'll prove your initial comment wrong, not the new backpedaling one that adds more information and parameters in an effort to divert the conversation (nice try, Bobby, but a pretty simplistic tactic):

"Calories always determines weight. Always."


"A calorie is a calorie" violates the second law of thermodynamics
Dr. Richard D Feinman and Dr. Eugene J Fine

From their conclusion:
A review of simple thermodynamic principles shows that weight change on isocaloric diets is not expected to be independent of path (metabolism of macronutrients) and indeed such a general principle would be a violation of the second law. Homeostatic mechanisms are able to insure that, a good deal of the time, weight does not fluctuate much with changes in diet – this might be said to be the true "miraculous metabolic effect" – but it is subject to many exceptions. The idea that this is theoretically required in all cases is mistakenly based on equilibrium, reversible conditions that do not hold for living organisms and an insufficient appreciation of the second law. The second law of thermodynamics says that variation of efficiency for different metabolic pathways is to be expected. Thus, ironically the dictum that a "calorie is a calorie" violates the second law of thermodynamics, as a matter of principle."

There are many other articles and research I can bring up (Hyperinsulinemia and/or the role of baseline Leptin and Ghrelin levels on body weight are others) but I'm sure you'll backtrack further to save face.

The whole point is, you sound like a moron when you throw out oversimplified absolute statements. You think you like smart doing it, but you look like a fool.

"Calories always determines weight. Always." Not always, as shown above. You backpedalled from that. And we’re wrong because your point was way too simplistic.

And just deal with the words that hurt your feelings.

No I’m not going to address your silly add-on parameters, as if you read correctly, I stated I wouldn’t.

Are you going to address the fact that your simplistic understand of calories is massively lacking in accurate detail? I’m going to guess that your ego won’t let you.

And your opinion on how I decide to make my points doesn’t matter to me.

I've addressed all the points you make in previous comments on this thread, yet you still can't bear to fathom your comment was simplistic and inaccurate, even when I bring up examples.

And you supposedly care about objectivity? What a joke.

Calories do not "always" determine weight.

You were wrong. Be a man and own up to it.

I'm done babysitting your ego.

There are verified cases of religiously devout people and/or activists fasting for years. They're thin, but they eventually stop losing weight and some of them don't die. Irom Chanu Sharmila is a notable example.


He's too pigheaded and close-minded to research. His statements show he thinks he knows everything already.

You are the only one talking about completely fasting. The rest of us who understand nuance are talking about a blind devotion to the concept of calories in versus calories out determining weight. We are talking about quantity while you are arguing about the absence of them. And as I noted above there are cases of people fasting for years. Where are you suggesting their energy comes from?

You can ignore documented cases of people fasting for years/decades if you wish.

But what is his stance on makeup artists, do tell.

You sound like a troll I once met... Could be wrong...

He might be a human, I don't though though I could be wrong ;)


Why should we care if he’s a liberal?

I guess you mean leftism.

Yep, probably a new kind of social justice in the works.


Going to guess, you're not.

there are standards in every industry. I don't understand the retouch issues for the most part. Yes, everyone is unique, but just because I think I'm a football player doesn't mean I get to play in the NFL. Not everything has to be re-touched, but to say that our standard is all-inclusive is a bit far fetched IMO.
That said, there is place for everyone in photography, and I chose to be behind the camera for a reason.

Many of the same people who decry digital skin retouching are the same ones who promote going vegan as a great way to clear up and maintain healthy skin. Either way, they're getting acne removed.

Anyway, skin retouching is neither right nor wrong so long as the client was offered it as an add-on option with their photos. I offer it in my packages and my clients are free to decline. I shoot a lot of Cosplayers, so I run into people with body image issues frequently. When they hire me, I ask them if they want retouching and all have said yes.

Retouching is a natural part of the post processing service, like teeth whitening, pimple removal, etc. Offer it to your clients and let them decide. Shouldn't be an issue either way.

Oh my, people are just looking for things to fight for.
You don't have to retouch a photo if you don't have to.
Retouching is usually required on commercial works, but for personal use, feel free to do whatever you want.
Humans are not born with Acne/blemishes, so it's not unusual for people to seek a "clean" portrait.

Hoping we can pls also normalise dad bod, hairy backs, held-in sneezes, webbed toes, poor sppelling, shortism, tallism, pink eye and chipped teeth. It's about time we rid the world of these troubling stigmas.


Acne, like snot and vomit, is a symptom of the body trying to fix itself.

It may be common, but it's not "normal.: If it were "normal" the body wouldn't be trying to fix it.

Acne is just as much about hormone regulation as it is anything else. Puberty is an extended trial for the body to figure out the proper level of hormones.

Still the body trying to get right what ain't right.


Such bravery.

What I always say is if you won't have a blemish forever, it doesn't need to be in a pic forever. A temporary blemish, scratch, bruise, etc does not represent the looks of a person for the rest of their lives. I try and build confidence in the people I shoot so I do what they ask and show them at their best, not fake, but them as they usually are.

I believe this series is pointless at best.

The body positivity movement's underpinning idea is our preference for other individual's look is a social construct and should be "corrected" to prevent others from hurt feelings. However, most of the time, we all want to be have a good appearance when we interact with others. However, A lot of our preference for looks is often deeply rooted in evolutionary biology, due to a lot of ugly body reactions are signs of sickness hence lower the chance of having the best chance of passing on the gene in a natural setting. This instinct if proven by Peter's use of soft light(reduces skin imperfection ) and one of his models is wearing contact lenses just proved my point. Often times, visually unappealing is the sign that one's body is trying to warn this individual about a condition, for example, obesity. Acne is often the result of a hormonal imbalance, it happened to may during puberty, myself included; it is normal for one to have a puberty period with annoying acne, but to suggest acne is always normal is just not true.

As for blaming Photoshop, is that just ignorant or is Peter just trying to get famous by catering to a strange movement?

A digital camera has the tendency to emphasizing skin imperfection. Depending on the brand and the raw converting software skin imperfection are often magnified, and having the mean to reduce them is a good thing.
In the analog world, way before the invention of Photoshop, people used to do darkroom D&B, portrait film and soft focus lens and filters to improve skin quality. The pursuit of perfect appearance was not a product of Photoshop and will not stop at anything.

And last, this tendency for this type of movement to set up a new morality and enforce others to accept it is harmful, especially for the artists. Think about how much damage does aniconism does to the art of portraiture during medieval time. We need room to create, an artist should defend and expend creative freedom as much as possible because art is the exploration of new ideas, beauty, and expression.

As long as the retouching is tailored to the intent of the image then I don't see an issue. I would draw a line at using high end skin retouching on children as it looks really odd.

Photo-stunts seem to be important to people who can't find find satisfaction in actual creativity.

"Photographer Attempts to Normalize Acne With Unretouched Set of Photographs" OR "Photographer Demonstrates How You, Too, Can Be a Victim if You Try."

The photographer used an artists work as 'inspiration' for this. The artist is:

Originally, it was supposed to be for a school project. He tried to tag her in photos so it would look like a collab. She tried to get him to stop and make it known that they didn't work together. Now he's basically took it and made it his entire shtick.

Really weird if you ask me. He's young, and probably doesn't understand how what he's doing isn't morally or artistically sound.

It would be like someone starting to do panoramic stitching photographs with a political spin, start tagging Ryan Brenizer citing 'inspiration' just to get clicks, then never mention the storm behind scene.

Just thought I'd let people know about this.

Don't retouch yourself or family and friends. Retouch models who know its going to happen.
As someone said earlier, I hope they also boycott Hair and MUAs, otherwise they're contradicting themselves.

Soon everything will be ok and everyone will be proud to be ugly, poor, lazy, fat, skinny, etc.
the doctors soon will be replaced with note stands which say “it’s ok to be [insert your peonlem]!

Soon everything will be ok and everyone will be proud to be ugly, poor, lazy, fat, skinny, etc.
the doctors soon will be replaced with note stands which say “it’s ok to be [insert your problem]!

"... even with my acne, I still look better than most of y'all headass bitches... " We live in such a courageous modern world where everybody is equal and in pursuit of instant gratification for their goodness and positive vibes. Yeah, I know, I am projecting my insecurities onto this 20yo photographer. Gonna go and turn myself in to the Ministry of Truth. Ommmmmmmm...

It would be great for those who don't get the "Ministry of Truth" reference to Google it and then even read the book. <sigh>

I mean, it depends on what and who you are shooting for. If the person is paying you for them to look good, then make them look good. If they want it to look natural, then limit the amount of retouching done on the end product.

I like lessening the imperfections (moles, pimples, scars), but not eliminating them altogether. Otherwise it makes the person almost look unbelievably perfect.

I think some people are missing the general point, here. Yes, some of the rhetoric is immature, and I see there is controversy about the origins of his project. If we set that aside and look at the actual message, it's about representation and feeling ashamed.

It's not that you shouldn't Photoshop anything; as many have clearly stated, that should be a choice. But the point is to make people, especially young people, to not feel unworthy or disgusted by their appearance. I was a normal teen, with normal blemishes - nothing major or extreme. As a female, it was "socially acceptable" to cover with makeup, and so I did; boys did not have that same luxury, and most still don't.

As an adult, I actually genuinely appreciate it when I see movies and TV shows with average teenagers (both with and without acne), because that's what real teenagers look like. It's part of the growing process for many young people, and while I would always encourage everyone to look and feel their best, the older I get, I don't think something that is natural is something you should feel societal pressure to be ashamed of.

In some ways, my daughters are lucky to grow up in an era that is so accepting. You have people like this young man who say 'I want to accept my flaws,' and you have people who spend 3 hours putting on makeup before they leave the house. And you know what? You do you! Be whoever and do whatever makes you happy.

But please, let's not shame this young man for standing up for himself and others who don't want to feel pressured by society to be a certain way. For many, it does feel like an act of bravery to show their "true face" to the world after years of being embarrassed to be in front of a camera or addressing to look in the mirror.

Not everyone has a "model's education" regarding skincare, and not everyone can afford medical treatment they want or need. Let's not forget that.

Side note: it's not "all about diet". It took me years to realize my skin was simply dry! I live in the desert, but I grew up in the Sea Breeze era, where "pimples are caused by oily skin". I just had to moisturize. :P